ATHENS – Georgia is in the midst of a major rebuilding effort on the offensive line with only two returning starters. But there is at least one relative newbie who is showing a lot of promise.
Kolton Houston, a sophomore from Buford, had to sit out this past season because of an “NCAA eligibility issue.” That issue is expected to be resolved before next fall and there are strong indications the 6-foot-5, 291-pounder will be among Georgia’s starting five for the season opener.
“We’re expecting Kolton to be a good player for us this year,” offensive line coach Will Friend said. “He’s a good athlete, he’s got good strength, he can run well. He’s probably the best athlete of the guards that we’ve got, to be honest with you. If he can continue to get tougher and continue to improve, he’s going to be a good player for us.”
Interview requests for Houston continue to be denied. But his teammates on the line don’t mind talking him up.
“Kolton Houston, I’ve always been high on him,” said junior guard Chris Burnette, the returning starter at right guard. “I feel like he really could have helped us out a lot last year if it wasn’t for that ineligibility stuff with him. I’ve been very impressed how he’s played.”
By all accounts, Kenarious Gates has been dominant and unchallenged in his move to left tackle from left guard. But Burnette had high praise for the other new names on the No. 1 line – center David Andrews and right tackle Austin Long. Andrews (6-2, 280) is a sophomore from Norcross and Long ((6-5, 304) is a redshirt sophomore from Memphis.
“I’ve been really impressed with the first line in general,” said Burnette, who has been designated spokesman among the linemen. “David Andrews has learned the offense probably faster than anybody I’ve seen as far as knowing what defenses are going to do, their tendencies and stuff like that. Austin, since high school I knew he was going to be a great player. He’s starting to get better after having to deal with injuries and sicknesses and stuff like that is real encouraging.”
Bailey to player D-end
The conversion of outside linebackers to defensive ends apparently was not limited to Cornelius Washington and Ray Drew. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham on Thursday said that redshirt freshman Sterling Bailey is also going play at that down-lineman position this coming fall.
Bailey (6-foot-3, 270 pounds), from East Hall, remains sidelined while recovering from off-season football surgery. But when he takes the practice field in August it will be with defensive line coach Rodney Garner’s group.
“Sterling is a guy who has really grown since he’s been here,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “He has very good flexibility and initial quickness. He’s got some size to him and he’s going to continue to get bigger as he lifts and eats. He’s going to be a pretty big man one day and he’s got pretty good athletic ability. Those kinds of guys create mismatches inside. That’s what you’re trying to do is create mismatches so guys can win one-on-one battles.”
Grantham said Washington will work at both outside linebacker and end in the fall.
Garrison Smith, Swann draw praise
Asked to identify some players that have helped themselves this spring, Grantham tabbed a pair of Atlantans — defensive end Garrison Smith and cornerback Damian Swann.
Said Grantham of Smith, a 6-foot-3, 294-pound junior out of Douglass: “Garrison knows what everybody does. He’s a very smart guy, he can get guys lined up and he plays with energy and brings energy to the defense. He did that last year. He’s plays in all of our packages and he can play on all three downs. I’ve been pleased and proud with what he’s done.”
Of Swann, the 5-11, 177-pound sophomore out of Grady: “Damian Swann is a really good player that continues to improve every day. He’s basically a second-year guy, but you see a lot of productivity out of him and I think he can be an outstanding player.
Etc. . . .
Signees John Atkins and John Theus watched the Bulldogs practice on Thursday. . . . Safety Bacarri Rambo and cornerback Sanders Commings didn’t practice because “they’re banged up,” according to Grantham. . . . Wide receiver Rantavious Wooten (leg muscle) had to leave practice again. . . . The Bulldogs will hold their second scrimmage of the spring Saturday at Woodruff Practice Fields.