May 27, 2010

Taking a look at the center

To have an effective running game, you need a strong offensive line. Kind of goes without saying, doesn't it?

Although it took Georgia half the season, the Bulldogs finally got their run game going in Week 7 at Vanderbilt, and behind the tandem of Washaun Ealey and Caleb King, finished the year with a respectable average of 161 per game.

Of course, the Bulldogs will be shooting for numbers far better than that this fall and with an experienced offensive line chocked full players, most of who have started for three years, there's reason for optimism.

Today, UGASports begins a series where we break down and analyze each position for the Bulldogs.

Let's take a look at center.

Tackles get the credit for protecting the quarterback's blind side (depending on if he's right- or left-handed), while it takes a pair of strong, sturdy guards to be able provide those inside running lanes.

But it definitely takes a consistent center to make the line complete, and in essence, enable the offense to execute at its optimal peak.

The Bulldogs return a two-year starter to the position, one who needs no introduction.

Read on as provides a full summer breakdown of the center position according to how it stacks up in Georgia's post-spring depth chart, the first in a series that will continue over the coming weeks.


61 Ben Jones (6-3, 300, Jr.)
68 Chris Burnette (6-2, 291, RFr)
58 Ben Reynolds (6-2, 250, RFr)

1. How much did Jones improve in his sophomore year?

From a strength standpoint, Jones improved tremendously. As typical with most freshmen, there were times when the Alabama native was overpowered, but last year that was rarely a problem as Jones became one of the more consistent members of Georgia's offensive line.

Couple with that fact that Jones plays with a mean streak, the rising junior was able to parlay in a successful second campaign. There's no question that position coach Stacy Searels expects that same kind of improvement this year, which if it happens, could solidify Jones as one of the SEC's best at his position.

2. What can be expected from Jones this year?

Jones has already started to receive some preseason mention as a player to watch, including a spot on the Watch List for the 2011 Remington Award which goes annually to the country's top center.

While it obviously remains to be seen whether or not Jones can claim the coveted trophy, based on his work ethic and desire to succeed, there's no reason not to expect an outstanding year.

Tough as nails, Jones has already proven that he can play through pain and succeed, which he did in 2009 en route to starting all 13 of Georgia's games.

3. Who is being groomed to step after Jones' time at Georgia is over or if something were to happen to him?

While it's not out of the question that veteran Chris Davis could slide over from right guard to spell Jones from time to time, based on the spring it appears that will not be the case.

As the Bulldogs get set to enter their voluntary summer workouts, it appears that redshirt freshman Chris Burnette is the young man being groomed to fill that role.

A member of the scout team last fall, Burnette came to Georgia as an offensive guard, but was moved to center last year.

Burnette has the frame and footwork to eventually become a standout in his own right, but until that day comes he'll continue to learn from Jones, who barring injury, could become one of the best to line up at that position for the Bulldogs.

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