Athens—When a season fails to meet expectations, as was the case at Georgia in 2008, fans and media tend to concentrate on what went wrong. And by any objective measure a lot went wrong on the Georgia defense last season after it finished 10th in the SEC in scoring (24.5 ppg).
Lost in shuffle of a “disappointing” 10-3 season was the fact that offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and OL coach Stacy Searels did some of their best work.
That’s because a team that played musical chairs with its offensive line, the way Georgia had to do last season, is not supposed to finish third in the SEC in scoring (31.5 ppg). And when left tackle Trinton Sturdivant injured his left knee in preseason, that’s exactly what Georgia had to do. Over the course of 13 games last season Georgia’s offensive line:
**–Had six different players start one of the two tackle positions.
**–Had six different players start at one of the two guard positions.
**–Had two different players start at center.
**–Georgia’s longest stretch of starting the same offensive line was only four games.
By contrast, Alabama started the same offensive line in 11 out of 14 games last season. If LT Andre Smith had not been suspended for the Sugar Bowl, it would have been 12 out of 14. At the end of last season Alabama’s offensive line had collectively started 117 career games.
“The only way you become a dominant offensive line is when guys have been playing with one another—not just one season but a couple of years,” Bobo said when I visited with him last Friday. “Two years ago we were dealing with youth. Last year we were dealing with a lot of injuries. We had to do a lot of scratching and clawing to get things done but coach Searels did a great job. This year we’re hoping all of that is going to pay off.”
If Georgia can get a break on the injuries, this looks like the deepest and most talented offensive line since the SEC championship year of 2002. Sturdivant is not going through contact but he has gotten stronger in the upper body. Clint Boling played every position on the offensive line but center last season, which is a big plus. Sophomore Cordy Glenn (6-5, 340) is going to be a star—a big star. He can play guard or tackle. Ben Jones started the last 10 games at center as a true freshman. That’s not supposed to happen in the SEC.
“Ben Jones is the definition of a football player,” said Bobo. “To do what he did is unreal.”
There are a bunch of other guys who have proven they start and play in this league: Chris Davis, Vince Vance, Tanner Strickland, Josh Davis. And the list keeps growing.
“What we have to do now is find the right five guys and where they should go,” Bobo said. “Then they’ve got to work together as a unit.”
This process will very important. It doesn’t take an advanced degree to figure out that with a first-year starter at quarterback (Joe Cox) and a veteran offensive line, Georgia will run the ball more in 2009. Georgia was fifth in the SEC in rushing last season (148.3 ypg). Georgia averaged 32.7 rushing attempts and 30.76 passing attempts per game. Expect more rushing attempts.
With the exit of QB Matthew Stafford and RB Knowshon Moreno there will be the tendency to sell this offense short. Bobo will have none of that talk.
“I’ve already told my guys that we have everything we need here to win a championship,” said Bobo. “There is no doubt in my mind about that.
Later today I’ll be in Knoxville to watch Tennessee’s practice. I’ll report to you in the morning.