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ATHENS – Georgia’s offensive linemen generally prefer to do their work in anonymity, but the spotlight has found them early in this preseason camp.
On a team without a quarterback who has ever started a college game, Georgia returns five offensive linemen with a combined 127 college starts. So the message has been sent: The wealth of experience on the line must offset the dearth of experience at quarterback.
“If we’re going to be a good football team or a great football team, we’ve got to have great play out of the offensive line,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “They’ve been challenged by the head coach, by me and by their position coach that we’ve got to be a dominant offensive line this year.”
The challenge appears to have been embraced.
“If we’re able to accomplish what I think we’re able to, I think we’ll be pretty special,” offensive lineman Clint Boling said. “I think we’ve got to take it upon ourselves to help Aaron [Murray, the redshirt freshman starting quarterback] out. Be able to run the ball. Give him time to throw the ball. Make his job as easy as possible.”
The line that started -– and thrived — at the end of last season returns intact: senior left tackle Boling (36 career starts), junior left guard Cordy Glenn (22), junior center Ben Jones (23), senior right guard Chris Davis (37) and senior right tackle Josh Davis (9).
“They’re a veteran group, and they know what we expect of them,” offensive line coach Stacy Searels said. “They should know what to do. They’ve got a lot of knowledge. It does make it a little easier to coach those guys. You’ve still got to produce when the lights are on and the pads are on.”
Searels, of course, is not the type to get carried away, particularly about how a team looks in walk-through drills or how it practices in shorts, jerseys and helmets. The Bulldogs won’t work in full pads until Saturday.
“We really kicked butt in walk-through [Monday] morning,” Searels said sarcastically. “We were awesome. … Walk-throughs, we are world-beaters.” Then, he added sternly: “You don’t walk through a football game.”
Still, the experienced line comforts the inexperienced quarterback.
“Our offensive line is probably not only the best offensive line in the SEC but probably one of the best in the nation,” Murray said. “Those guys have worked together two or three years now, and they know everything.”
Offensive tackle Trinton Sturdivant, attempting to make it back into the lineup after missing almost all of the past two seasons with knee injuries, has held up “very well” through the first two practices, coach Mark Richt said after Tuesday’s session.
Sturdivant has been practicing in a green non-contact jersey, and it remains to be determined how the line might be shuffled if he comes back successfully. He started all 13 games as a freshman in 2007. Searels’ mantra is: “We’re going to put the best five football players on the field.”
Meanwhile, offensive lineman Tanner Strickland, sidelined last season after shoulder surgery, missed Tuesday’s practice because the shoulder “flared up a little bit,” Richt said. “We don’t think it’s a true setback.”
Richt has no complaints after two days of practice. “It’s been a good start, been a very good start,” he said. “It was very evident a lot of guys worked hard physically but also worked hard mentally” during the off-season. . . . Richt said defensive coordinator Todd Grantham told him the defensive players are showing “a lot of recall” from spring practice. “That’s a tribute to our guys,” Richt said. “They’re serious about wanting to win.” . . . Richt singled out sophomore safety Shawn Williams for praise: “He’s probably dropped about 10 pounds. He is much quicker. You can tell he really studied. He’s gotten the attention of our coaching staff.” . . . Freshman quarterback Hutson Mason, whose “command in the huddle” drew praise from Bobo after Monday’s opening practice, impressed Richt again Tuesday. “You could tell that kid studied all summer long,” Richt said.
And changing sports . . .
Colorado announced that its basketball team will come to Athens to play Georgia in Stegeman Coliseum on Nov. 16, with the Bulldogs making a return trip to Boulder the following season.