Dawgs' Offensive Line the focus of Spring

ATHENS – When the conversation turns to offensive line issues, Mark Richt's mind always drifts back to 2003.

That season, a patchwork front allowed David Greene and D.J. Shockley to be sacked an SEC-worst 47 times. Heading into spring practice, which begins today in Athens, the memory of that season is weighing particularly heavily on Richt.

One year after the question of who would be quarterback consumed spring practice, sophomore Matthew Stafford has firmly established himself as the starter, and the uncertainty now is if the Bulldogs can keep Stafford alive through the 2007 season.

Georgia lost four seniors from the 2006 offensive line, including three starters and its top backup. It has just two starters returning – guards Chester Adams and Fernando Velasco – and two more players – Seth Watts and Ian Smith – who don't have 100 collegiate snaps combined.

Does that mean 2003 is destined to repeat itself? "No," Richt said. "I hope and pray that it doesn't, but I think Matthew has learned enough to know that every play is different. When the protection is there and you have an open receiver, you have to put it on the money, and when it isn't, you just have to be wise."

Georgia has plenty of bodies to fill its offensive line holes – redshirt freshmen Chris Davis, Kevin Perez and Josh Davis and newcomers Vince Vance, Justin Anderson, Scott Haverkamp, Trinton Sturdivant and Tanner Strickland. Chris Davis (center), Josh Davis (tackle) and Vance (tackle) already are listed as starters heading into the spring.

Georgia will spend at least the first week of the spring making sure it has all its offensive linemen in the proper spot on the line, Richt said.

"It's going to be a long spring," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "It's going to test our patience. We're going to do our best to line up for the G-Day Game, but our ultimate goal is to get them ready for Sept. 1, and we're going to take baby steps."


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