OL Looking to be Dominant From the Start

ATHENS – While most Georgia fans reveled in daydreams of a dominant offensive line last preseason, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo was a rare voice of pessimism.

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While most predicted the Bulldogs' line would be among the best in the country, Bobo was skeptical. Sure, the group was talented, but it had a long way to go to reach expectations.

As it turned out, Bobo was right – at least for most of the season. The offensive line struggled out of the gates, and it took six games before the unit started to gel.

But gel they did, and eventually what was one of the biggest disappointments of the 2009 season became one of the best reasons for optimism this year. In fact, even Bobo is singing a different tune this spring.

"I feel good about where we're at right now as a unit," Bobo said. "Those guys that finished the season played well together, communicated well together, and they're taking a lot of pride in how they lead the football team. That's usually a good recipe for success up front."

It just took a while to find the right ingredients for that recipe last season.

When starting left tackle Trinton Sturdivant went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 1, the lineup shuffled and then shuffled again, and the right fit always seemed to elude the Bulldogs. But as Georgia reached the midpoint of its schedule, things finally clicked into place with the return of junior Josh Davis from a shoulder injury.

Davis stepped in at right tackle, which created a ripple effect that allowed Clint Boling – the team's best overall lineman – to move to left tackle and burly Cordy Glenn shifted inside to left guard. Suddenly, everything changed.

"I think when you get five guys across the board that really know what they're doing and play with the kind of effort and attitude that they had, it makes a big difference," head coach Richt said. "We just could not get the continuity without him. I think a lot of the pieces to the puzzle were together, but when Josh came in, it kind of made the fifth guy that really could play in sync."

With continuity came success. Suddenly the sluggish offense became a ground game juggernaut.

In the first six games of the year without Davis, Georgia ran for just 97 yards per contest. With Davis in the lineup, that number more than doubled to 217 yards per game during the next six weeks of action.

Davis doesn't exactly see the dramatic turnaround as a coincidence, but he's also not taking all the credit for the success.

"I don't think it was just me that made a difference," Davis said. "We just got tired of not being able to run the ball as a unit. That's basically it. We got tired of not being successful in the run game, and we came together and decided we were going to do it."

Davis is finally healthy this spring after being unable to even bench press in the weight room while his shoulder healed last year, and that's reason enough for optimism. But it's not so much just the personnel that give the Bulldogs offensive line a little extra swagger this year. It's the attitude that the personnel bring.

There's a toughness, Boling said, and that's spread throughout the unit. And while health remains a bit of an issue with Sturdivant, Tanner Strickland and Justin Anderson all missing this spring, things don't seem quite as fragile as they did a year ago.

"We finally have a little consistency going through this spring practice," Boling said. "Hopefully it'll get a bit better once we get Trinton and Tanner back for the fall, but I think we have a chance to be really good this year."

With a new starting quarterback taking the reins of the offense in 2010, the burden of moving the chains early in the year is likely to rest on the running game – and in turn, the offensive line.

So this year, Boling's goal isn't simply to be dominant. It's to be dominant from the get go.

"We just have to do a better job of playing consistent right from the start," Boling said. "We don't want to be five or six games until we get the running game going. Hopefully we can do it the first game and carry it throughout the year."

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