The OL is green but ready to go

ATHENS - Josh Brock knows what he's supposed to do. He also has a pretty good idea of the responsibilities for those manning the other four positions on Georgia's young and inexperienced offensive line. But about his offensive coordinator Neil Callaway? That's a different story.

"You never know what he's thinking," Josh Brock said with a smile of Neil Callaway. "He'll tell you straight up what's on his mind, but if he doesn't tell you, you don't know what he's thinking."

Sophomore center Russ Tanner agreed. "He's a cool coach," Tanner said. "He doesn't give it away. He's straight up with you. He tells you exactly where you stand. He pretty much wipes out the gray area."

There's plenty of gray area with this year's offensive line. Only three Bulldogs up front got their uniforms legitimately dirty on Saturdays a year ago, and three true freshmen are expected to see quality time, and fairly early. The old guys of the group are Tanner, backup tackle Dennis Roland and backup guard Reggie Weeks, both redshirt sophomores.

Callaway doesn't see the situation as terribly surprising from one aspect.

"I think we were really unusual the last couple years around here by having the upperclassmen who played," he said. "Every couple years, you usually have to play freshmen."

But it's hard to analyze much about this year's unit because it has so few faces left from last year. The Bulldogs lost seven seniors from the offensive line, including Macon's George Foster, the 20th pick in April's NFL draft.

"It's kind of a cliche," said Tanner, who played at Johnson County, "but we're all out here working hard, trying to get better, trying to get it all together."

Georgia is in these straits primarily because the staff of former coach Jim Donnan failed to sign one offensive lineman in 1999, a move that raised a little attention then and now must be dealt with.

"I think the fact that the year before we got here, they signed zero offensive linemen," said Callaway. "Our first year, we signed two. We saw it coming, just wasn't a whole lot we could do about it."

Georgia has signed six each of the past two years. But so young is this group that sophomore Brock calls freshman center Nick Jones "a kid." Brock, of course, is a for lack of any better term veteran of the group, with a whopping three starts last year.

Callaway hasn't had many chances to see the projected starters work together as a unit, thanks to a variety of nagging injuries.

"We need everybody there every day," he said. "Every day's been a new day. Every day, there's something different that happens. Somebody's back or somebody's missing. It's been a frustrating thing."

Tackle Max Jean-Gilles, perhaps the lineman with the greatest expectations, has had to sit out parts of several practices because of heat. The surprising part is that he lost about 40 pounds and is still so affected.

"When it comes to two-a-days, I have to adjust to the heat," he said. "But I don't cramp up. I've been like this since I was young." And Saturdays seem to be different, for Jean-Gilles doesn't suffer the same heat problems. "I'm over-excited," he said. "My coaches tell me to calm down, but I don't calm down."

Jean-Gilles, a 6-foot-4, 337-pounder, still wants to drop a little more weight, but he knows there's some talk that he could leave Georgia as one of its best linemen ever.

"Coaches expect everything out of me this year," he said.

This year's line is noticeably leaner than the unit of 2003. Those breaking the 300-pound mark are carrying that bulk on taller and bigger frames, like 6-7 Daniel Inman, 6-9 Roland, and Jean-Gilles.

"I'd rather have a guy who's in good shape," Callaway said. "I don't want a big, big fat guy."

Thus, there may be a little more use of the option and other plays that go wide, for Georgia hasn't had a very quick line in recent years. This time, those backs may have more escorts at the corners.

"We're not gonna be a team that's gonna straight up run right at you every play," Brock said. "We can do that, yes, but we're more suited to running around and hitting on the run. We've really worked hard on some things."

Two consistent names pop up as surprise players: walk-on guard Ryan Schnetzer of Newnan and center Nick Jones of Bowdon. Jones' improvement is crucial since he's Tanner's only backup at center, and he's a true freshman.

"Nick Jones is one of the most competitive people on the field," Brock said. "He's even more undersized than me, but he doesn't know or he doesn't care. He gets out there and gets after it every down. "That's what I love about him. The kid never slows down, never stops."

Schnetzer may be the unit's poster child.

"He's done a great job for us and will play," said Callaway. "If there's a surprise, it would be him. He came here and he's worked. He's done a good job of training and getting his body up. He's very smart, a very good person, too. "He's just worked hard to become a good football player, and I'm proud of him."

But there remains the suspense of what these new guys will do on Saturdays. There are still a fair number of kinks to work out, to get better and to make Callaway happy.

"If one person doesn't work hard, he makes us all do up-and-downs," said Brock of one drill. "We do more up-and-downs and more little punishment drills than I think anybody in the nation."

They'll find out in six days what the lessons have been learned.


Georgia at Clemson Sat., 
Noon (ABC) 

The last time Georgia didn't have a junior or senior as a regular starter? Not at least since 1960, when the school's sports information department began recording starting lineups.

Fernando Velasco (6-4, 327, fr.)is a backup at tight guard and tight tackle. Freshmen Zeb McKinzey and Trey Chandler are expected to be redshirted.

Brock is the "veteran" with three starts. Jean-Gilles has one.

The last time Georgia didn't have a junior or senior as a regular starter? Not at least since 1960, when UGA Sports Information began recording starting lineups.

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