Justin Anderson has lined up for Georgia’s offense to protect Matthew Stafford, Joe Cox and come the Boise State game Sept. 3, he’ll be blocking for quarterback Aaron Murray.
Anderson missed nearly all of last season due to a turf toe injury after being moved to nose guard, but returned to the offensive line this offseason and will start at right tackle.
“The thing about Justin,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said, “he seems like a different person. He’s excited about coming to practice, he’s working hard. That happens. Guys mature, guys go into their senior year and they know that’s it. He’s taking every opportunity with his chance right now.”
The 6-foot-5, 342-pound Anderson is being counted on to provide more stability to an offensive line that is led by two other senior starters in left tackle Cordy Glenn and center Ben Jones. Left guard Kenarious Gates and right guard Chris Burnette complete the starting five.
“Those guys have done nothing to lose their spot and have performed pretty good,” offensive line coach Will Friend said.
Georgia doesn’t have much depth behind them.
Guard/center Dallas Lee and tackle Austin Long may be the only backups ready to play.
Anderson has taken just about every first-team snap this preseason.
“I owe these guys my best,” Anderson said, “because last year I was planning on playing nose tackle and I got hurt. I owe my team the best. I don’t owe them nothing less than the best because it seems like forever since I played in a game in Sanford Stadium. I owe them. I owe them and myself.”
Anderson, who came to Georgia from Irwin County High School on Ocilla after a stop at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia, hasn’t started at right tackle since he lined up there for seven games as a redshirt freshman in 2008 when he was helping to open holes for Knowshon Moreno.
Anderson started five games in 2009 at right guard before being removed from the starting lineup midway through the season.
“You go back and look at film from him in ’08 and ’09 and he was productive at times,” Bobo said. “I’m excited about those three guys being seniors and helping to lead this group.”
Said Anderson: “I’ve played (offensive line) before, so it didn’t take long to get back used to the routine. The players have changed a little bit since the last time I was over there, but it’s not that different. It’s pretty much the same stuff.”
Anderson was thrust into a starting role after Trinton Sturdivant was lost in the spring with a torn ACL and another tackle, A.J. Harmon, transferred in May.
“I think it was tougher for him when he got back in the spring,” Friend said. “I think he did a good job in the summer doing some things on his own to kind of re-trigger the things that we do. He’s a lot further along. Is he a little bit behind the other guys that are up in that group? Yes because he didn’t have a year of doing it.”
Anderson has been particularly effective in the ground game, Jones said.
“He’s really a terror on the run-blocking,” Jones said. “He can really come down on you. He’s probably one of the most athletic guys out of the first five. He’s got probably the fastest feet I’ve ever seen. Sometimes coach Friend is like, ‘Just calm down. You’re too fast.’ That’s always a good thing to tell somebody to slow down.”
Anderson isn’t about to talk up his own game before the first real game.
“I feel like I can do some things,” he said. “I’m just going to say wait until the fall and I’ll show you then.”