Starting Freshmen OL get thrown into it

ATHENS – Trinton Sturdivant and Clint Boling are excited but admittedly a little nervous about their first college football game on the road.

Well, they probably are. At least, it seems like they would be, but unless you know Trinton or Clint personally, you're not going to know for sure.

Sturdivant and Boling, who made history last week by becoming the first pair of true freshmen offensive linemen to start a game for Georgia, have been off limits to the media since the season began. Offensive line coach Stacy Searels has not explained his decision to keep his freshmen under wraps because he hasn't spoken to the media since the first day of fall camp himself, but the idea is to keep the voices in their head to a minimum, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said.

Sturdivant has started all three games for the Bulldogs at left tackle. Boling got his first career start last week at right tackle and is expected to start at right guard Saturday when the No. 22 Bulldogs (2-1, 0-1 SEC) take on No. 16 Alabama (3-0, 2-0).

The only people Sturdivant and Boling need to hear from are senior offensive linemen Fernando Velasco and Chester Adams and their coaches, Bobo said. What they don't need, particularly this week, is having members of the media say "Hey, you're going to Tuscaloosa and getting them thinking about it instead of just focusing on their job and their task at hand," he said.

Guard Scott Haverkamp said he has been impressed with Sturdivant and Boling's maturity and thinks they could handle an interview or two, he said, but Velasco is just as happy to have them muted.

"Any time you have a true freshman playing a lot, it's easy for them to get the big head," he said. "Playing the offensive line, you don't need to get the big head whatsoever. It helps to keep them humble, just know that they have to keep working."

Like Velasco, junior tight end Tripp Chandler has done his best to help Sturdivant and Boling. He sometimes will make line calls for them during a game, he said.

"I remember playing as a true freshman. It's tough," Chandler said. "You go from playing in front of 10,00 and you think you're playing in front of the whole world to playing in front of 90,000 people, and the game is so much faster. They need the help, but they're coming along. I think they're doing a really good job of picking it up and doing a little bit better each and every week.

"I thought the pressure might get to them, but I don't think that's been the case with either one of them, I think they've both handled themselves very well."

Although both players need to get much stronger, Coach Mark Richt said, each of them has akey attribute that has helped push him past his peers. For the 6-foot-5, 293-pound Sturdivant, it's raw athletic ability. He played basketball, wrestled and was on the track team at Anson High School in Wadesboro, N.C.

"He has the athleticism to stick on the guy keep his feet running, and he will bury some guys that way," Richt said. "Then one day when he gets a lot stronger, he may just start rolling people off the ball at the snap, but he's not really doing that right now. Every once on in a while, he'll get bull rushed and get pushed into the pocket."

Boling's gift is his technique, which is much more polished than most freshmen and even some of Georgia's veterans. That's all the more impressive considering Boling, a graduate of Chattahoochee High School in Alpharetta, has had to learn two line positions this season.

"Clint, he had a coach in high school, a good coach, because he is very fundamental," Chandler said. "His steps are right on."

Beyond that, both players have a precocious confidence in their ability, Bobo said.

"They believe they can play and they believe they're the best guys," he said, "and that's why they are right now."

"I think they're going to be very good players for us here at the University of Georgia," Bobo said. "They've got to be good players for us Saturday in Tuscaloosa, and that's a big task for any individual – especially for a freshman. By any means do I think that they're ready for this stage? No, I don't even know if our team's ready, because we're going into an environment that we haven't been in as a team yet this year."

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