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Post 2007 all over again after Sturdivant injury?

Monday April 11, 2011

Our thoughts this morning are with Trinton Sturdivant. Another major knee injury – this time to the other one – has likely ended his football career.

Sturdivant joins the way-too-long list of promising stars whose careers were cut short by an uncooperative body. He’s entering his fifth year of eligibility, and three of those will have been spent dealing with surgery and grueling rehab. There’s precedent for the NCAA granting a 6th year of eligibility, but who are we kidding? Three major knee injuries in four years is enough of a toll taken on the guy’s future. Hopefully he’ll use this last year to make the most of his academic opportunities.

Georgia’s line situation wasn’t terrific to begin with, and everyone is wondering today how the pieces will shift in order to get a line together for two huge tests to start the season. The picture looks a little bit like it did in 2007 when Sturdivant and a collection of freshmen and JUCO transfers joined two experienced linemen to somehow transform into the unit that led the way for Moreno and helped the team finish #2 in the nation.

Here’s what the line looked like entering the 2007 season.

LT 77 Trinton Sturdivant 6-5, 286, Fr.
72 Vince Vance 6-8, 330, So.

LG 63 Chris Davis 6-4, 292, RFr.
54 Tanner Strickland 6-5, 318, Fr.

C 75 Fernando Velasco 6-4, 328, Sr.
74 Kevin Perez 6-3, 274, RFr.
64 Ian Smith 6-3, 295, So..

RG 70 Scott Havercamp 6-4, 310, Jr.
78 Josh Davis 6-6, 293, RFr.
73 Micky White 6-3, 320, RFr.

RT 67 Chester Adams 6-4, 330, Jr.
79 Justin Anderson 6-5, 335, Fr.

The 2007 Dawgs had two veterans on that line: the versatile Velasco and the dependable Adams. Searels was in his first year as line coach, and the Dawgs turned to newcomers at three of the five positions. Boling didn’t even rate on this preseason depth chart, though of course he quickly distinguished himself and became part of the success story.

We’re in a similar position now five seasons down the road. There’s a new position coach again. Sturdivant’s injury leaves just two established starters on the line: seniors Jones and Glenn. Tanner Strickland’s decision to hang it up takes away another older, if not experienced, option. One difference is the availability of Justin Anderson. Though his spot on the line was expendable when the defense came calling last year, he’s at least seen the field as an offensive lineman. A wildcard among experienced linemen is A.J. Harmon. He was a touted prospect, and it was big news when he switched from Clemson to Georgia. He’s struggled to make an impact though after two years and a redshirt season, but it would be nice if he emerged to become part of the answer.

Fresh faces are likely to become part of the solution again. There’s a substantial glut of linemen on the team who just haven’t seen much playing time. Some of that is for medical reasons – Burnette, Benedict, and Austin Long – have been rehabilitating some pretty serious injuries of their own. You also have five true freshmen coming in. Debell or Dantzler might be looked to early, but as with Boling in 2007, you can’t really tell which newcomers will get it until they’re put on the field. With the lack of experience among the injured redshirts, you pretty much have to lump them all in with the true freshmen at this point. Some might have an upper hand – Burnette was seeing time with the first unit even before Sturdivant’s injury.

It’s asking a lot for any newcomer to step in to that key left tackle spot now vacated by Sturdivant. His accomplishment of holding down the spot as a true freshman in 2007 was exceptional. For that reason, I agree with Seth Emerson that you’re likely to see someone with playing experience – whether Glenn or Gates – in that role, and hopefully the experienced Jones can hold things together in the middle much the way Velasco did. You might also see the coaches use a tight end like Lynch a lot more often if it turns out to be needed in pass protection.

A repeat of the miracle of 2007 is a tall order, but the situation now is only slightly less dire. There are at least more options available this time. “Uncertainty” is definitely the word to use – right up there with “inexperienced.” The 2007 season at least gives us hope that something can come from this mess.

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