ATHENS — Georgia’s offensive line will be shuffling again in the Florida game.
Juniors Dallas Lee and Kenarious Gates are expected to start as usual at left guard and tackle, respectively. But Lee has been playing on a bad ankle since the Tennessee game. So the Bulldogs are increasingly turning to junior college transfer Mark Beard, who they bring in at left tackle and slide Gates inside to guard when Lee needs to come out of games.
Beard played extensively this past Saturday against Kentucky. Lee continues to practice rather than rest the ankle, so his durability on Saturday will be closely monitored.
“Dallas has got to get healthy,” said offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, who called this a “competition week” to determine playing time on Saturday. “But it’s good that Mark got a lot of experience last week.”
Beard, a 6-foot-5, 305-pound sophomore, is starting to resemble the player Georgia thought it had recruited out of Coffeyville Community College in Kansas.
“I think it’s good that Mark got a lot of experience last week and has been getting more and more each week,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “He had to play a lot in the Tennessee game because Dallas went down and South Carolina he didn’t play that much. But he’s played well. He’s still got a lot to learn but he’s an athletic guy who’s got good hands and good feet. I’m pleased with what we’re seeing.”
Georgia’s center position and right side of the line has remained largely unchanged all season, with center David Andrews, guard Chris Burnette and tackle John Theus.
Obviously Georgia’s line play is going to be crucial if the Bulldogs are to establish any offense against Florida stout defensive front. Richt indicated the unit has played better than a lot of people might think, the difficulties in the South Carolina game notwithstanding.
“I think we’ve got a bunch of linemen that at least know what to do and get their hat on the right guy most of the time and they’re fighting,” he said. “When you do that, it gives you a chance. . . . Are we physically dominating everybody? No, not at all. But if you hit the right guy and do it.”
Turnovers a key
To beat Florida, Georgia is going to have to win the turnover battle. To date, nobody has done that yet.
The Gators enter Saturday’s game plus-11 in turnover margin, which is places them among the top 10 teams nationally. Georgia is even in turnover margin for the season.
The Bulldogs’ coaches have been working overtime to emphasize that to the team this week. Richt said they made a video of all of South Carolina’s turnovers against Florida last week and showed them to the team. They Gamecocks had four miscues in the first half and Florida finished plus-4 for the game to help it score a season-high 44 points.
Georgia’s coaches also shared this stat: The top 12 teams in the nation in turnover ratio have a combined record of 87-5, with 6-1 being the worst mark.
“It’s the most devastating momentum against you when you turn it over,” Richt said. “You lose field position, you usually give up points and you give up momentum. But if you gain a turnover it’s the same thing. You steal a possession from them; you don’t have to worry about them punting and you gain momentum. That’s what you’re looking for.”
mentioned that the top teams nationally are also the leaders in turnover margin. Also, he said he showed the team highlights of last week’s Florida-South Carolina contest as the Gators were plus four in turnover margin, and it helped them score a season-high 44 points.
Florida has just four turnovers this year and played four games without one while the Bulldogs have had three games without a turnover.
For the second day in a row, tight end Jay Rome reported to practice late after receiving extra treatment in the Georgia training room. The redshirt freshman tight end is not listed on the daily injury report but said he is dealing. He is not expected to miss Saturday’s game. “It’ll be fine,” he said Wednesday. “Nothing major.”
One new name on Wednesday’s injury report was Quayvon Hicks. The freshman fullback came out of Tuesday’s full-contact work with a concussion and did not practice. His availability for Saturday is unknown… Linebacker Brandon Burrows also missed with a concussion.
Richt said he has watched the weather reports with interest as Hurricane Sandy makes its way through the Caribbean Islands toward southern Florida. The latest computer models have the storm missing Jacksonville but are predicting high winds for Saturday’s game.
“I’ve been hearing 22 mile-an-hour winds,” Richt said. “That is a lot of wind. That effects a game a lot more than rain, especially if it’s a cross wind.”
Georgia practiced for 30 minutes Wednesday in shoulder pads, helmets and shorts. “Wednesday’s in the books,” Richt said. “No more hitting until Saturday.” … Last year marked the first time in series history both Georgia and Florida had a bye before meeting in Jacksonville. The Gators had an open date before in 15 of the last 19 years. They were 15-4 in those games. Neither team had a bye this year.
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