Offensive line coach Will Friend said junior tackle Austin Long has emerged as Georgia’s go-to sixth offensive lineman.
Wes Blankenship/UGA Sports Communications
Offensive lineman Austin Long (74) will be seeing more playing time the rest of the season due to injuries to his fellow big men.
Due to guard Chris Burnette’s injury, Mark Beard has joined the starting lineup at left tackle. Long will now be the top backup along the offensive line and be the rotating sixth man, a role Beard served until Burnette’s injury.
“Austin was going to play early going into the (Auburn) game,” Friend said. “He was going to play. He had a couple of good weeks in practice.”
Friend said he prefers to rotate a sixth lineman into games to build experience in case of injuries, but he assured that Long’s recent progression has made it tough to keep him on the sideline.
“We try to do that (rotation), so if something were to happen, a guy has been playing,” Friend said. “But it all started with (Long) doing better the last three or four weeks. You don’t want to play anybody that you don’t think can contribute. We felt like he could and that’s why he played.”
Georgia coach Mark Richt said he has also taken notice of Long’s improvement.
“Austin is coming along,” Richt said. “He’s getting stronger. He’s gotten more knowledge of what we’re trying to do. When he’s been in the games, he’s played pretty good. I think he’s starting to win coach Friend over there just a little bit.”