Notebook: Open competition for starting spots on offensive line

ATHENS – Technically it’s just bowl practice. But for Georgia’s offensive lineman, the month of December may seem more like preseason camp.

The Bulldogs’ offensive coaches made a pronouncement regarding the line almost as soon as the SEC Championship game ended: Every position is up for grabs and the starting lineup will be determined during the 15 practices leading up to the Jan. 1 Capital One Bowl.

“That’s how we put it to those guys,” Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “The five that are going to play, we’ll figure out between now and the bowl who’s going to be where. I do think the line played extremely well this year and got better. But there’s always room for improvement, and any time there’s competition that’s good for the group.”

The Bulldogs were seemed stable up front this season. They played just three different starting lineups – including the same for the first nine games – and shuffled it around only because of injuries. The primary lineup included sophomore David Andrews at center, juniors Dallas Lee and Chris Burnette at the guards and junior Kenarious Gates and freshman John Theus at left and right tackle, respectively.n But the Bulldogs began to rotate in sophomore Mark Beard at left tackle increasingly toward the end of the season and would slide Gates inside to left guard.

Line coach Will Friend also said he’s giving a hard look to players who didn’t get a lot of game-action during the season. Before wet weather impeded practices Sunday and Monday, the Bulldogs full-contact,  graded scrimmages featuring mainly non-starters. Austin Long, Watts Dantzler, Greg Pyke and Xzavier Ward that have reportedly stood out in those sessions.

“They were told when they came back from finals that .the people that perform the best would play and have a chance to start,” Friend said. “So we’ve mixed some guys in at some different spots just to look at some better combinations, things you probably wouldn’t be able to do in a (game) week.

“Like we said from Day One, our goal is to play with the best five. So maybe (experimenting with) a couple of different lineups will provide a chance to do that.”

While some of the experimentation is for the bowl matchup with Nebraska, the Bulldogs are also looking ahead to next season. Georgia will return its entire corps of offensive linemen, but it’s also recruiting several blue-chip prospects, including five-star left tackle prospect Laremy Tunsil of Lake City, Fla. Friend indicated that he would prefer to keep Theus at right tackle, meaning any changes will likely come on the left side.

“Obviously, Ken can play (left tackle) and we can play at a good level with Ken,” Friend said. “Now is Ken suited better for guard if somebody’s a better left tackle? Maybe. Mark Beard has improved some and done some good things athletically, but he’s got a ways to go. Maybe he’s more of a guard of somebody’s better at left tackle.

“But we’ll play the best five. Our best tackle will probably be the left tackle, whoever it is.”

Bobo aspires to be head coach

Bobo tends to be very evasive will talk turns to his interest in any other job than the one he currently has. But his name surfaced in several head coaching searching this winter and he admitted Monday that his ambition is to one day become a head coach.

“I think we all aspire to run your own program one day,” said Bobo, who has been Georgia’s offensive coordinator since 2007 and quarterbacks coach since 2001. “But I’m just constantly trying to learn and get better. If stuff like that happens, it happens. If not, not. I’m just really worried about what I can control and that’s coaching here right now.”

Bobo bristled when asked specifically if he interviewed for any positions this year. “I’m not going to comment on anything other than that,” he said.

Prove it on practice field

Redshirt sophomore tailback Ken Malcome recently expressed discontent over his role as a backup to freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Bobo had some advice for him on Monday.

“If he wants more playing time, he’s got to prove it on the practice field,” he said. “He’s given opportunities every day. He’s got a great chance, like we talked about with the offensive line, to earn some playing time in this bowl practice. But the best guys are going to play regardless of age.”

Etc. . . .

Inclement weather forced the Bulldogs indoors on Monday. The offensive and defensive units alternated utilizing the Nalley Multipurpose Room, which is not large enough to accommodate the entire team. It’s the second day in a row wet weather altered Georgia’s practice plans. Storms canceled Sunday’s practice and the Bulldogs ended up playing whiffle ball instead. . . . Linebacker Ryne Rankin, an early enrollee from Orlando, went through his first practices with the team over the weekend. “He’s only been here one official practice,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “He ran around like a freshman, but he did a good job.”

116 comments Add your comment

DOGGIE IN NC

December 17th, 2012
8:25 pm

DawgFan

December 17th, 2012
8:26 pm

This is good stuff. I think Will Friend has been outstanding as line coach these past 2 yrs.

Bradley G

December 17th, 2012
8:27 pm

Will there ever be a Kolton Houston sighting on the field?

Bernie Matt

December 17th, 2012
8:37 pm

This staff is full of it! All of a sudden the best 5 will play? Burnett’s been the best center on campus for the last 2 years, but they wanted the private school wonder boy on the field. Causing the guards to have to hesitate to make sure he (andrews) wasn’t beat before they could get out and pull going full speed. Well at least CMR is willing to learn after seeing Bama move Barrett around to wherever they needed him for 4 seasons and he do a heck of a job. Or maybe it watching Bama run for 300 plus yards on them. Well whatever it was, I’m just glad they are acknowledging it. But CMR has been here over 10 years, this sounds like a statement that maybe the new coach at AUB or UT might make, not a program that’s had the same man at the top for better than 10 years. GEEZ!

tenn.DAWG

December 17th, 2012
8:37 pm

It’s BS that they don’t have an indoor practice facility in this day and age.

bubba4dawgs

December 17th, 2012
8:43 pm

Hope Grantham will get as busy with the “D” line as Friend is with the “O” line! Proud of the “O” line for the way they played against Aluhbamuh! If only the “D” line had done as well, the DAWGS would be playing in Miami in January. Perhaps rebuilding is in order, particularly considering they had to be challenged by a teammate to get moving.

Macclenny_dawg

December 17th, 2012
8:57 pm

Better start signing some beef on both lines!!! We sign enough playmakers we just need trench players. Got to get stronger on both lines!!! Go Dawgs!!!

Max Sizemore

December 17th, 2012
9:00 pm

I finally got around to watching the Alabama game again, and the guys on the defensive front — Jenkins, Geathers, Smith, and Washington — did a better job than most people think. The big problem, IMO, was that the inside linebackers — Ogletree and Gilliard — were obliterated. Ogletree, for all his great ability to pursue, was running around blocks and trying to rip the ball out instead of trying to make the tackle. (It’s one thing to treat a 170-pound Georgia Tech runningback like a sack of wheat, and another trying to handle Eddie Lacy.) I think it highlights the problem of having to face a real football team whose offensive line can kick your ass after playing most of the season against spread teams where it’s better to have linebackers who can run, like Ogletree. And, BTW, Williams and Rambo weren’t all that great in run support, either.

The Truth

December 17th, 2012
9:06 pm

Even University of Toledo and Boise State have indoor practice facilities.

JB

December 17th, 2012
9:16 pm

Max, good observation. The theme all year year with this front seven has been sacks and strips, thus good ole fashion tackling was absent most of the time. Lot’s of average teams ran for a lot of yards this year……as far as this topic of all positions open on the OL, wonder if they ran that by Richt. That’s not Richt’s MO. Example. Brice Ramsey from Camden County is enrolling in January at QB. If Murray leaves and Brice out performs Mason in spring and summer camp, who on here thinks Richt would start Brice over Mason. I would bet the farm Richt wouldn’t start Brice.

JB

December 17th, 2012
9:21 pm

Most of these Georgia defensive players will get a lot better in the pros with some real coaching. The raw talent is there.

JB

December 17th, 2012
9:22 pm

Who of these defensive players would you like to see the Falcons draft. I like Rambo or Olgetree.

tgbeazy

December 17th, 2012
9:29 pm

@JB I don’t see Brice outperforming Mason. He’s pretty sr and solid. Plus, Brice would probably do great redshirting. I’m praying Murray comes back. Offense going to be sick next year.

dewey

December 17th, 2012
9:39 pm

coach richt needs to stop trying to find the best athletes for each position and start recruiting football players. having a couple of athletes is great, dont need them at every position. ogletree is a perfect example…he can run all over the field, great reach and leaping ability, but an inside linebacker needs to be able to stuff the fullback or lineman in the hole. at that point, the play is blown up and someone will make the tackle for little or no gain. ogletree would have been a much better outside backer than inside. to the best of my knowlege, we dont have any true inside backers, just athletic outside backers playing out of position.

GTDog

December 17th, 2012
9:48 pm

I seem to recall Richt started RS Freshman over a returning starting QB in 2001? And I believe the freshman Stafford beat out a senior also.

Do we really want to continue to believe that after 12 seasons and 100+ wins, the staff prefers to play favorites rather than win ballgames?

GTDog

December 17th, 2012
9:52 pm

I’ve never been sold on Ogletree as an ILB. It just seems to me like he’s weak straight up and tends to wiff on too many tackles. I thought he was horrible in his first few games this year, and was a little concerned about all the neat looking “ride ‘em cowboy” tackles late in the year….

kral

December 17th, 2012
9:52 pm

gosh knows if CMR would just let dewey..hope you are not a duck..set in a few meetings..we would be..we would be..I’M sorry I am not sure

Lakedawg

December 17th, 2012
9:52 pm

Eleven guys that can play OL coming back plus hopefully Kolton. Add in 4 recruits, 2 which are of caliber that could contribute fitst year will give most depth on OL in many, many years in Athens.

Dl was to big and slow and inside linebackers were to small and constantly got blocked and knocked backeards by big backs. New crop of backers coming in will be young, but in 230-240 range which is sorely needed ina 3-4 scheme.

GTDog

December 17th, 2012
9:56 pm

I agree LAKEDOG, with the exception of Herrera, I like him in the middle…

clutch

December 17th, 2012
9:56 pm

The d-line played good against Alabama, the linebackers did as well. The issue was that Alabama switched to a two tightend set and we didnt adjust. We were out numbered and out flanked which is why we couldn’t stop the run. All that we had to do is bring in an extra lineman or bring shaun Williams down to be extra man. That didnt happen until the last defensive series

Rik Smits

December 17th, 2012
10:06 pm

Proof read your article. Jeebus

kral

December 17th, 2012
10:06 pm

let’s see..I sure leave it to the blogging offensive coordinators and defensive coordinator bloggers..far more know it all than I will ever be..gosh if they were on the staff just think how excited I would be right now….fixing to ND for the NC

kral

December 17th, 2012
10:07 pm

left out play..

Uncle Kirk

December 17th, 2012
10:13 pm

DI’d you people not see ogletree meet lacy at the goal line? He definitely can stuff the run with the best of them.

GTDog

December 17th, 2012
10:50 pm

I missed that one Kirk, but I seem to recall a good GL stuff. Was that Tree?

Cp

December 17th, 2012
11:05 pm

Most of you guys are nitwits. You are smarter, wiser and all much better coaches than our current staff. The brightest and best minds have assembled a staff of coaches that earn anywhere from $200k-$2,500,000 per year. All while the you guys are out there for a fraction of the cost. Wow, now that’s amazing!!! It’s a shame some of you aren’t tapped for you valuable insight.

This best five will play, all spots are open for 2013, etc email is for the recruits. It says “Tunsil, see we told you that you can come in and earn your spot at left tackle next year”. The same thing all recruits are told. But this was brilliant! Tunsil is reading this presser to his family and friends tonight. Let’s just hope it works! Go Dawgs!

BigDawg

December 17th, 2012
11:08 pm

We should have stuffed the box earlier!!

Cp

December 17th, 2012
11:10 pm

PS…Tree is a Stud! Sideline to sideline he impacted or was in on damn near every single play. Not to mention the bone crushers that fire up the players and fans alike! Like it or not, it gets UGA on the highlights clips…and guess who watches these over and over and over!

Confounded

December 18th, 2012
12:41 am

Tree is a stud sideline to sideline, but you can run right at him. He may go in the first round because of his athletic ability, but he may not really be NFL ready yet. That said, I’d draft him in a heartbeat.

Columbus

December 18th, 2012
4:23 am

It will be the 1st time in years wwe have had an OL that has had several guys together for a couple years. This has been the weak link the last 4-5 years, even Stafford and Moreno’s last year. That is a primary reason why that preseason #1 ranking was a joke. UGA should be able t run all over the SEC next year if they have a decent passing game if Murray leaves…

The next few years the OL should be strength instead of the weakness it has been the last 4-5 years and that is going to be a very nice change…..now if we can just get a few guys on defense to stay for their senior years….!

Columbus

December 18th, 2012
4:28 am

The main issue was UGA had no depth on the DL….3 guys played the whole game in the middle against that great bama OL, Jones was out too. They were sucking wind midway 3rd quarter and Bama was running hurry up. Depth killed UGA more than speed on the DL and their OL and receivers blocked the LB’s VERY well. Depth. Bama wore down the DL too soon with only 3 guys playing the whole game….

Columbus

December 18th, 2012
4:31 am

UGA needs MORE OL and DL. That needs to be the foundation of any great team. Makes EVERYBODY better on both sides the ball. Start in the trenches because no matter how good your skill is, you arent going to be nearly what you could be if your trenches are not studs….

blackshirtslive!

December 18th, 2012
5:01 am

As a Husker fan, I like you guys. Not too many trolling. It could be a good game. You catch us on a good day, you will have your hands full. I was with a girl from Georgia for three years and all I will say is “Damn, you’re the best in the SEC”.

dewnsav

December 18th, 2012
6:01 am

I think Bobo needs to consult Tide Roll on any O-Line issues…go dogs

Just Asking?

December 18th, 2012
7:36 am

Can Linebacker Ryne Rankin be eligible to play in the Bowl game? Are redshirt guys able to play in the Bowl game since it’s played on 01/01/2013? I don’t believe so but am curious.

[...] line for the Capital One Bowl. OL coach Mike Bobo told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that every position is up for grabs. Strange approach for an offense that is averaging 6.98 yards per play (fourth [...]

dap01

December 18th, 2012
8:18 am

Our middle linebackers were our weakest link at the championship game. Gilliard was lost and weak.

RP

December 18th, 2012
8:22 am

We definitely need Tide Roll for this OL debate. Bet he wants to bench Andrews and Theus, put in Ward and sign Tunsil. Guess we dont need him anymore since i just provided the comment for him.

RP

December 18th, 2012
8:23 am

I was really shocked that Herrera didnt play more. Does anyone know why he didnt?

Dawggie

December 18th, 2012
8:28 am

In SEC CG what I saw our largest poblem was Gillard. Every big hole ran was at Gilliard. So many mistackles and just generally out of position. As for Ogltree be to small and not stepping into the line, I cry foul. Eddy Lacy was stopped midstride and a fumble forced at the 2 yd line by #9.

mgdawg

December 18th, 2012
8:35 am

UGA really needs to build a real in door practice facility. I know there is not much room around the butts-mehre building, but there should be room somewhere 10-15 min away. The place they have now is barely big enough for a walk through. UGA athletics is one of the most profitable in the nation, they can afford it.

RxDawg

December 18th, 2012
8:44 am

“If Murray leaves and Brice out performs Mason in spring and summer camp, who on here thinks Richt would start Brice over Mason. I would bet the farm Richt wouldn’t start Brice.”

JB, Richt started Stafford over some upper classmen in that exact same setting. But I bet the farm that Brice won’t out perform Mason.

RxDawg

December 18th, 2012
8:45 am

And he might not out perform Faton Bauta (spelling?) from what I’m hearing.

The Tide is Rolling and Nothing Can Stop It

December 18th, 2012
8:47 am

Hey pups,

Should Amari Cooper be suspended for abusing your backfield?

What he did was worse that Dial’s hit on Murray if you ask me.

The Tide is Rolling and Nothing Can Stop It

December 18th, 2012
8:48 am

An SEC Championship record for rushing, with 9 future NFL players on your team.

Yea, you have a great d-coordinator.

Idiots.

BTW, all that oversigning whining and you’re over 30 players.

Hypocrits.

32 years….

robodawg

December 18th, 2012
9:03 am

Looking to next season, we should finally have an OL that’s one of the team’s strengths. It’s been too long. If we had any depth to our defensive front, I’d be really optimistic.

dawgman

December 18th, 2012
9:10 am

TIDE IS TROLLING- CALM DOWN ELEPHANT BOY AND GET ME A PEPSI

dawgfan

December 18th, 2012
9:13 am

FINALLY some football talk instead of a bunch of soap opera crap about players whining over playing time and who’s declaring for the draft.

Max Sizemore hit the nail on the head about our defense. Nobody wanted any part of Eddie Lacy and I’m afraid it cost us a shot at a national title.

I know this sounds like total homer crap, and maybe it is, but losing all that “NFL talent” on defense might not be such a bad thing. We need a more blue collar attitude on defense with guys that are hungry to prove themselves and are willing to stick their nose in there and hit people. We didn’t have that this year.

Thanks.

The Tide is Rolling and Nothing Can Stop It

December 18th, 2012
9:17 am

The state of Georgia, with all of it’s corrupt school systems, drunk ADs, and 1 in 4 people on food stamps, doesn’t have the toughness to field a championship football program.

Dawgwood

December 18th, 2012
9:24 am

Tide idiot, we only signed 18 last year. So, we can sign them and they will have scholarships.