The offensive line is one area of the 2009 Bulldog team that needs little in the way of worry. Coming into this year, the Georgia offensive line is looking better and fiercer than ever.
Each position on the line has something that, in the past, was a luxury—health and experience.
Last season, it seemed we couldn't get a break from the injuries. Trinton Sturdivant, our starting left tackle, blew out his knee and missed the season—combine that with the various other hiccups along the season and you have a line that looked something like a jigsaw puzzle.
The injuries to starters and backups necessitated some serious juggling by Stacy Searles, the offensive line coach, and Mike Bobo, the offensive coordinator.
Both had to be quick on their toes so that we could field a competent line to protect our quarterback as well as supply the holes needed to allow Knowshon Moreno to do his thing.
No one expected much from the rag tag crew but they ended up surprising us all by finishing third in the SEC in points scored (31.5 ppg). Not bad for a squad that saw only four games where the line was intact.
This season, the Bulldogs will look for a little luck in the injury department as they return all of their starters from last season, along with Trinton Sturdivant.
So, who are the guys that will make their money protecting Joe Cox's backside and making Caleb King and company look good?
Ben Jones (So), 6'3", 294 lbs
Jones was the starting center for the Bulldogs last season as a true freshman. That is unheard of in the SEC, but he's that good.
He appeared in thirteen games, starting ten, and by the end of the year he was named to several All-SEC lists, including that of the SEC coaches' All-SEC team.
His best showing last season came in the game against Kentucky, where Matthew Stafford lit up the Wildcat offense for 376 yards passing and three touchdown. Knowshon Moreno added an additional 123 yards rushing and three scores.
For that performance, Jones was named SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week.
Jones is a big guy, but he moves well for his size. He backs down from no one and is known for being one nasty fella when finishing off his blocks.
He's a natural leader at the position and has no problem getting down and dirty for his teammate if the situation asks.
He's tough and plays smart on every play—using his hands well to stave off the pass rushers and giving his quarterback enough time to find an adequate passing lane to throw the ball.
If anyone thinks that he's resting on his laurels after a heralded season, one only needs to look at the True Grit award he received at the end of 2009 spring practice.
Ben means business and he's ready to do it all again this year—only better.
Trinton Sturdivant (So), 6'5", 310 lbs
Trinton Sturdivant will likely be the starting left tackle for the Dawgs when they matchup against Oklahoma State this year.
That's an amazing feat when you consider the fact that many thought his career was done after he completely tore up his knee—tearing the MCL, ACL, and PCL—requiring him to have reconstructive surgery.
However, as spring practice came and went, he has looked stronger and there is a sincere hope that he will be able to man his rightful position by the time the first snap is called.
Sturdivant is one of the premier left tackles in the game right now and I have little doubt that if he plays well this season, he will be a coveted pro prospect.
His blocking skills are bar none—his long arms help keep the pass rushers at bay while his footwork allows him the ability to move would-be tacklers out of position so that his running back will get a good look at a lane.
Sturdivant has the versatility to play either guard or tackle but will likely remain right where he is as that will be his bread and butter.
He's quick and shows good punch while blocking opponents.
If there is a weakness, it is in his pass protection, but that will get better with more snaps and a better understanding of game flow, there is no reason to fear a regression here.
Trinton promises to be ready and better than ever.
Clint Boling (Jr), 6'5", 297 lbs
Boling is one of the most versatile players on the offensive line.
Last season, the plethora of injuries allowed us to see just how much talent Boling truly has as he played almost every position on the save the center spot.
He's athletic, quick, and extremely competitive.
As of now, he will likely be the starting right tackle—the return of Sturdivant makes him less likely to return to the left tackle spot this coming season.
Boling is still learning how to play his position well and has yet to reach his full potential as an offensive lineman—remember, he played tight end in college so this is only his third season on the offensive line.
He has the skills to become one of the best and will likely need to add a bit more weight to his large frame in order to be more effective as a blocker.
Further, he will need to improve his footwork if he expects to stand his ground against some of the more talented defensive lineman in the SEC.
Cordy Glenn (So), 6'5", 331 lbs
Glenn will probably be the starting right guard.
He's a big guy, but he's incredibly light on his feet for his size.
His strength is in pass protection—he displays good footwork and keeps his pads level in order to sustain blocks long enough for the play to develop.
In run protection, he remains effective but it can be difficult for him to get low on a defender at times due to his height and he will need to get better at this skill if he hopes to excel.
Justin Anderson (RSo), 6'5", 328 lbs
Anderson will be the left guard this year.
At 328 lbs, he is the biggest guy on the line and will be a beast alongside Sturdivant.
Anderson's skills as a run blocker are unparalleled and he will play a huge role in keeping the lanes clear for the running backs this season.
He's not as prolific in pass protection, but he has enough skills as a player to keep him from being a liability.
He gets in the face of defenders and has no problem knocking guys around if they try and bulldoze their way through him.
He may not be the quickest guy but that won't stop him from making his presence felt.
Overall, the Dawgs are in unfamiliar territory as they have starters and bench players who all have experience playing various positions on the offensive line—Vince Vance could easily be the starting right tackle over Boling.
Add to that the presence of both Chris Davis and Josh Davis—the latter returning from hip surgery and the former from shoulder surgery—as well as Tanner Strickland, and you have a group of guys who form one of the best lines in the SEC.
Incoming freshman Chris Burnette, Austin Long, and Dallas Lee promise to compete for some snaps as well.
It should be a good year for Searle's and his boys—hopefully everyone can stay focused, out of trouble, and healthy.
If they do, the offense will be much better than most expect.
Next: The Quarterbacks