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Post Offensive line coming together

Friday June 26, 2009

David Hale and Anthony Dasher both had conversations this week with starting left tackle Trinton Sturdivant about his personal progress since his season-ending knee injury. There’s also some good information about the composition of the starting offensive line. From left to right, the current first team line is:

  • LT: Trinton Sturdivant (RSo.)
  • LG: Vince Vance (Sr.)
  • C: Ben Jones (So.)
  • RG: Cordy Glenn (So.)
  • RT: Clint Boling (Jr.)

If you’ve heard Mark Richt speak at any of the Road Tour stops, this is pretty consistent with how Richt had the line. The only real question was at guard and whether Justin Anderson would work his way into the starting lineup, and he still might – there’s still plenty of time for things to change before September.

Regardless of the ultimate lineup, if everyone stays healthy (always a big “if), we’re left with two statements we haven’t been able to make about the Georgia line for years: every Georgia starting lineman returns with starting experience, and the Dawgs are going to be able to bring in guys off the bench with multiple starts under their belts.

The biggest unknown with the line has been whether the injured players will be able to step back in at a high level of play. That might be more of an issue with someone like Chris Davis whose more recent hip surgery still leaves him in a likely reserve role. But for Sturdivant, it’s going to be less of a concern. Sturdivant “no longer has to wear the brace on his knee and doesn’t even have to go through treatment any longer,” according to Dasher.

If Vance and Sturdivant are able to return anywhere near full strength, the composition of the line will also allow the Dawgs to bring along newcomers at a more normal pace. In the past two years freshmen like Austin Long, Chris Burnette, and Dallas Lee might be forced into starting roles. Now, if injuries can be avoided, many of them will have the opportunity to redshirt and not hit the field as starters until 2011 when they’ll have had 2+ years of development.

Though the return of Sturdivant is one of the most important developments of the preseason, the depth situation at tackle is still a big concern relative to the strength of the interior line. Sturdivant and Boling are solid starters. After that, Josh Davis was able to step in last year, and Anderson is able to play right tackle. Vance stepped in for Sturdivant last season at left tackle before Vance’s own season-ending injury. Austin Long is an incoming tackle, but he will redshirt after back surgery earlier this year and isn’t an option. Kiante Tripp is back on defense. So there are options in the event, God forbid, of injury, but they’re largely the same as last year and better interior linemen than answers at tackle.

The ability of everyone to stay healthy through the summer and into the season is meaningful not just for depth but also cohesiveness. Though everyone on the starting line has starting experience, this combination of players has never taken the field in a game. “We’re focusing on getting used to the player beside us because last year everybody was mixed up, switching positions every so often every week,” explained Sturdivant. A line full of experienced players is great, but it’s less of an advantage if the quarterback, tailback, and even the other linemen don’t know how the unit will work as a whole. The more time the guys have to get to know each others’ game and the more time Cox and the other members of the backfield have to get comfortable, the bigger positive impact the line will have on the season.

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