Velasco returning this fall as the starter

ATHENS – Replacing the likes of Max Jean-Gilles, Russ Tanner and Ryan Schnetzer won't be easy, but several players are fighting to do so including one that redshirted last season in anticipation of starting this year.

Fernando Velasco, listed as the number one split guard on the depth chart, is getting ready for his return to the football field. The redshirted season, as it turns out, might have been two years later than it should have been.

"We played him as a freshman and probably should have redshirted him," head coach Mark Richt said of the junior.

In 2003 Georgia was forced to play, and even start, some true freshmen. Velasco didn't get a start, but he served as a backup offensive lineman all season. In 2004 he was the Dawgs' backup split guard. Now he's trying to fight off Zeb McKinzey for the starting job.

"Me and Zeb are competing for that spot," said Velasco. "We are both pushing each other trying to make this season better. I know it is going to be a tough job to win. Zeb wants it just as bad as I do."

All indication, however, are that Velasco will win that spot. McKinzey has been sidelined for some time with a shoulder injury.

Velasco has been working with the number one group during fall camp so far. He got a vote of confidence from Richt during the fall's opening press conference.

"We are comfortable with him and have a lot of confidence in him," said Richt of Velasco. "We are counting on him."

Velasco said this year's fall camp is different than those in the past.

"This is the first time I have come into camp playing with the number ones," he said. "I feel confident in my abilities."

Velasco added that he would like to drop a few more pounds. He is listed at 315 pounds in the team's media guide.

"I would like to lose five or ten more pounds, but I feel good where I am right now," he said.

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