The news has been mostly positive during the offseason concerning the Georgia offensive line. Both Trinton Sturdivant and Vince Vance seem to be in great shape and on track to step back in to the first team line in plenty of time for the season opener. The presumptive starting line has, knock wood, been able to work together more or less intact over the summer.
The promise of a relatively experienced and talented line has been one of the steadying factors in an offseason full of concerns and uncertainty surrounding other positions on the offense. The strength of the line though depends on them remaining healthy. We’re well tuned in to the well-being of the starters, but there have been some developments that will affect the depth behind that first team.
Reserve redshirt sophomore guard Tanner Strickland injured his shoulder during offseason workouts and will require surgery which will sideline him for the entire 2009 season. Strickland played in all 13 games as a redshirt freshman in 2008 on special teams and as a backup lineman. Before Vance’s return, Strickland was listed as the starting left guard on the official depth chart.
The availability of another guard, Chris Davis, is still up in the air. Davis is one of the more experienced linemen with starts in 2007 and 2008, and he played through much of last season with incredible hip pain. Davis had surgery on the hip in January and missed spring practice, and he’s still not quite back yet. Vance, Glenn, and Anderson give Georgia a solid trio of guards, but the loss of Strickland and the uncertain status of Davis leaves a bit of a gulf in experience between the rest of the interior linemen. The Dawgs would still have some options in the event of injury, but those options would be much younger and much less experienced than Strickland and Davis would be as reserves. The opportunity is there for someone like A.J Harmon or even a true freshman like Chris Burnette to step forward and earn a lot of playing time in a reserve role.
Even tackle has been affected. The position wasn’t terribly deep to begin with, and Kiante Tripp is back on defense this year. Austin Long, from Memphis, was Georgia’s top tackle signee in 2009. Though we’d hope that the days of a true freshman at tackle were behind us, spring back surgery means that Long will be forced to redshirt regardless of need at the position. Sturdivant and Boling are as good as it gets as bookends, but beyond that you’re looking again at Josh Davis or a repeat of the 2008 shuffle that moved Vance and Anderson outside from guard to tackle as needed.