Kenarious Gates shifted this offseason from left guard to the pivotal left tackle spot. He is replacing Cordy Glenn, drafted in the second round of the NFL draft by Buffalo. Georgia had not produced an offensive lineman drafted that high since 2003.
"I feel very comfortable because I feel that's my natural position, that's where I need to be," Gates said after Monday's practice. "This has been my best camp. I've worked hard and become a leader for the team and am just holding down left tackle."
The 6-foot-5, 318-pound Gates, who started nine games at left guard last season, admits he can improve his technique.
"He's getting better," coach Mark Richt said. "He's really practiced well the last few days especially. I think he's become more comfortable there. He's being a little bit more patient in his pass protection. …You've got to time your punch."
Quarterback Aaron Murray said he was confident that Gates would be "fine" at the new spot because the junior "has a lot of years in the system already."
Theus could be in select company
Theus continues to work with the first-team at right offensive tackle as he's done for the majority of preseason practices, Richt said.
Georgia has yet to name him a starter, but if the 2012 signee does indeed start Sept. 1 against Buffalo, he'll be just the third true freshman to start at offensive tackle in a season opener for the Bulldogs since freshmen became eligible in 1973. The others: Trinton Sturdivant (2007) and Adam Meadows (1993).
According to Georgia, nine other true freshmen offensive linemen have started in that time in their first season: centers Ben Jones, Nick Jones, Steve Roberts and Jack Swan and offensive guards Cordy Glenn, Clint Boling, Kevin Breedlove, Steve Roberts and Kim Stephens.
Murray said he hasn't noticed that Theus is a rookie. He said he's certainly not in there "shaking and crying. He's out there, doing his thing, manning up."
"Getting thrown in as a true freshman is tough, especially learning the offense and learning the speed," redshirt junior guard Chris Burnette said. "He's done a great job of just listening and learning and just getting better."
Theus or Watts Dantzler would move to left tackle if something happened to Gates, Richt said.
Team celebrates walk-ons rewarded
Seven players that came to Georgia as walk-ons were called to the front of the room in a Saturday night team meeting so Richt could announce that they were being awarded scholarships.
"I know myself and like 40, 50 other guys rushed them," Murray said.
The rest of the room stood up and clapped, he said.
"It was awesome, it was a great feeling," said fullback Merritt Hall, who remains No. 1 at the position. "I was surprised, I was excited. I was feeling a lot of different emotions at the time. It's just a really big honor."
Also getting scholarships: defensive back Luis Capella, receiver Rhett McGowan, safety Connor Norman and linebacker Kosta Vavlas.
"Believe it or not, it's a bittersweet moment for me," Richt said, "because as many guys that are getting scholarships, there's a lot that aren't. There's a lot of guys deserving."
Richt said he debated whether he should reveal the players awarded scholarships at the meeting because he was thinking of how the players that didn't get them would feel.
Richt said when he first did it in front of the team a few years ago, he was impressed with how the scholarship players reacted.
"When it happens, it is a very positive reaction," Richt said. "It is an honor to say you walked on and earned scholarship somewhere along the line in your career. It's a lot of fun in a lot of ways, but in some ways it's tough, too."
Richt said he told the team how much he appreciates all of the walk-ons.
This and that
Defensive end Ray Drew (concussion) returned to practice for the first time in more than a week in a non-contact jersey.
Tight end Ty Flournoy-Smith (strained hamstring) was limited, but probably will practice fully Wedneday, Richt said.
Murray on the 65 percent completion ratio that offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has set for him this season. "I'm going 65, 70," he said. "I want to get near 70."
The team won't practice Tuesday, but holds its second preseason scrimmage on Wednesday.