April 7, 2008

Georgia needs line to mature quickly this fall

MORE: Expectations run high as Georgia finishes spring

ATHENS, Ga. Most observers struggle to find any holes in a Georgia lineup that features 19 returning starters. The Bulldogs are hoping their own running backs won't have similar trouble finding holes this fall.

While it's tough to find many problems with a team as loaded as Georgia, the offensive line has developed into the Bulldogs' main area of concern this spring. The defense has dominated most of the scrimmages while Georgia searches for a leader to materialize on its line.

Georgia returns three starting offensive linemen from last year, but the Bulldogs still aren't exactly loaded with experience at that position. Georgia probably will open the season with one junior and no seniors starting along the line.

"I don't want to make excuses, but it's kind of hard that we're all the same age," said sophomore center Chris Davis, one of three freshman starters on last year's line. "It's kind of hard to find a leader out of that."

Georgia had no trouble finding a leader last year.

That responsibility belonged to senior center Fernando Velasco, who anchored last year's freshman-laden line well enough to help Georgia average 32.6 points per game.

"He was a huge difference for us last year," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "I don't think we'd have had the season we had if Fernando hadn't taken on that role."

Davis is moving over from guard to replace Velasco at center, but the Bulldogs still don't know who's going to replace the leadership void.

Georgia's returning starters on the line are all sophomores: Davis, left tackle Trinton Sturdivant and right guard Clint Boling. Junior Vince Vance the lone upperclassman on the line is the favorite to fill Davis' old spot at left guard. Sophomore Kiante Tripp gets the first shot at replacing the departed Chester Adams at right tackle.

"There really isn't a lot of experience," Richt said. "There isn't a bell cow. I'd kind of describe it as a ship without a rudder right now."

Georgia's problems on the offensive line may have been exaggerated a bit because Boling has missed much of spring practice with mononucleosis.

Boling's return should help, but the Bulldogs probably won't get an accurate measure of their offensive line's strength until the start of the season. They can only hope a leader has emerged from the group by then.

"The potential is there, but potential means you haven't done anything yet," Davis said. "We've got to jell. We've got to become a better unit."

Saturday's G-Day game didn't help Richt decide on his starters.

"We don't know who our top five is yet," the coach told UGASports.com. "That's going to take some time. We still hope to have as many as eight or nine that we feel comfortable with in the game."

MORE: Expectations run high as Georgia finishes spring

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.


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