Versatility Breeds Options, Competition

ATHENS – Projecting which players will start on the offensive line may be only the first step in painting the whole picture.

Figuring out where each player can and will play is just as important – and just as useful a tool for offensive line coach Will Friend.

"We're finding the group that can gel the best and find the five that can play," said rising sophomore Watts Dantzler. "If it's the best six or seven we'll rotate, you know. Coach Friend is giving everybody an equal chance."

Junior Kenarious Gates spent the first two days of spring practice at left tackle after playing the last two seasons at guard.

The move hasn't been difficult, Gates said, because he played tackle in high school and was also a basketball player, which helped his footwork and athleticism.

"After the bowl was over with I knew that was the position for me," Gates said, giving a nod to last year's senior starters, Cordy Glenn and Justin Anderson. "I pretty much knew that was my position, so before spring came I was working on it and getting better at it."

Gates move created an opening at left guard. Kolton Houston, who didn't play last year due to an undisclosed sanction, has received the most reps there in practice.

Houston still isn't available to the media, but his presence with the first unit indicates the Georgia coaches must feel confident he'll be cleared to play this season.

Dantzler has been the first team right tackle, but he's a versatile player as well. While he's never played guard in a game, in college or high school, he did practice at the position last December when starter Chris Burnette was ill.

"The first day it was kind of awkward but it's blocking the same thing pretty much, it's just with different terms," he said. "It's not that bad, you just have to get used to it and go with it.

"If they tell me to go play guard, left guard or right guard, I'll do it. Whatever can help the team out."

Sophomore David Andrews has taken over at center, with Burnette at his usual right guard spot.

The second unit offers a few intriguing angles. Junior college transfer Mark Beard has mostly been at left tackle. He could remain there or push for a starting position at guard.

Junior Austin Long, who for three years has battled a myriad of injuries, appears healthy at right tackle. Guard Dallas Lee, who started seven games in 2011 before breaking his right leg, has spent most of his time backing up Houston at left guard.

The sum of all the parts is Friend has options – something he didn't necessarily have in his first season as a coach in 2011. And that's before heralded recruit John Theus has even arrived on campus.

"There is a lot of pressure on us, but I think a lot of pressure creates a lot of opportunity," Dantzler said. "I know a lot of the guys, we're looking at the situation, and we're excited about it."

Added Andrews: "We don't have any set offensive line. You look there on every rotation and someone is in a different spot or whatever. I think that's good for everyone. It breeds competition; there are no set spots. I guess the coaches have their ideas about where they want people to play, but as of right now there's nothing set in stone."


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