2013 Offensive Preview: Offensive Tackles

Dawg Post's 2013 offensive preview returns this Thursday after a brief hiatus from spring break and Pro Day. We last discussed the interior linemen, so today we'll tackle the tackles.

As many know by now, Georgia returned it's entire first and second team unit from a year ago, which contrasts the depth and experience issues it faced the past two seasons. Attrition, however, has been a problem this spring as both John Theus (foot) and Chris Burnette (shoulder) have been sidelined to recover from offseason surgeries. Offensive line coach Will Friend understands that injuries are always lurking, though, which why he "cross trains" his unit during spring practice. Doing so helps gauge not only where guys will fit best, but also where to shift them should a starter go down.

That happened last year when Burnette first tweaked his shoulder against Ole Miss. Mark Beard slid into the rotation and started was a domino effect along the line in terms shifts. The guy who took over for Burnette at right guard during his two-game hiatus was Kenarious Gates. At 6-foot-5 and 318 pounds, Gates is one of the more physical lineman on the team. His durability is impressive, too, as he started in all 14 games last season. Friend will lean more heavily on Gates for leadership this fall as it will, after all, be his final season in red and black.

Like Gates, Theus started in each game last year and became the third true freshman in school history to start at tackle in the season opener. Theus wasn't an early enrollee either, and was banged up throughout much of the season, which speaks volumes about his resilience. And though he's missed much of spring activities, Theus will be back on the field this week. The Jacksonville native has a bright future ahead of him, and if he stays the course, he could become a first round NFL draft pick some day.

Theus and Gates are concrete with their spots at this point. But guys like Austin Long and Watts Dantzler, who are listed as tackles, have been getting additional reps with the guards the spring. Long, who is also no stranger to injury, has made great strides this spring, according to coach Mark Richt. Even if he doesn't solidify a starting spot, Long will likely be much more involved in the regular rotation.

Among others who have also faced injuries in the past are Zach DeBell and Xzavier Ward. The pair redshirted together in 2011 and look to make an impact soon. They are also the smallest of the non-freshmen tackles in terms of weight, and Richt said that they'd benefit greatly by packing on more.

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