March 10, 2009

Focus: Offensive line

When examining the spring depth chart for Georgia going into spring practice, a couple of positions immediately jump to mind.

First is right guard, where Tanner Strickland is penciled in as the starter while Chris Davis recovers from hip surgery, while true freshman Dallas Lee is already listed as the backup center to starter Ben Jones.

Talk about an opportunity.

With three key players still rehabbing from previous injuries - Trinton Sturdivant (ACL), Vince Vance (ACL) and Chris Davis (hip) - and unavailable for spring, youngsters like Lee and Strickland are both hoping to take advantage of their respective opportunities.

Particularly Strickland, who would have received more of a chance last fall if it had not for an ankle injury which turned into a chronic strain that bothered him for most of the year.

"I'm 100 percent right now," Strickland said in an interview with UGASports. "We've all been working hard in the weight room, getting stronger and just hoping to stay away from some of the injuries that plagued us last year."

So far, so good:

Despite their absence, Sturdivant, Vance and Davis are each expected to be cleared over the summer, well before the start of preseason drills in August.

While Sturdivant will remain at left tackle, Vance told UGASports recently that he expects to work primarily at right tackle come fall where he compete for the starting position with Justin "Bean" Anderson.

Davis is expected to remain at right guard, with sophomore Cordy Glenn and redshirt freshman A.J. Harmon battling it out at left guard.

"I think everybody is excited that we have more bodies," Strickland said. "Anytime you've got more guys that can play it's going to work to our advantage."

Strickland said that things will get even more interesting once preseason camp rolls around.

For example, where will junior Clint Boling play once Sturdivant is deemed healthy enough to resume his starting role at left tackle, the position Boling will continue to play this spring.

Offensive line coach Stacy Searels has always maintained that Georgia's starting rotation will always include the five best linemen, regardless of their position. So, with the exception of center, it's conceivable that Boling could arguable wind up back at right tackle or right guard, two positions where he's started in the past.

"Right now I have no idea what's going to happen," said Boling. "I do know we've got 8-9 guys now with playing experience and that's a good thing so if something happens again, at least now we've got other guys able to go in and there not be too big of a drop off."

Boling, who said he doesn't mind continuing playing left tackle if that's what Searels' wants, has another issue he's more concerned with right now.

Although not small by any measures, Boling has already begun to try and bulk, in hopes of adding almost 15 pounds before the start of the 2009 campaign.

"The main thing I'm trying to do is get my weight back up. I'm at 297-298 right now, but I want to get up to 305-310 before the start of camp," he said. "I just have a hard time putting on weight. Every day after practice I have to do all kind of shakes and stuff like that to keep it on. It's something that's always been tough."

Five other linemen will get their opportunity to impress Searels this spring.

Redshirt sophomore Ben Harden comes in as the No. 2 right guard behind Strickland with redshirt freshman Jonathan Owens getting extra snaps as the No. 2 right tackle after Anderson.

Other names to look for include walk-ons Casey Nickels at left tackle and right tackle John Bodin.

Two other players, Kevin Perez will go into spring as the No. 3 center, while right tackleJosh Davis will miss the spring after undergoing left shoulder surgery in January and possibly won't be ready to play when preseason camp begins.

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