Even Aaron Murray‚Äôs father is quizzing the Georgia quarterback about how the offensive line in front of him is shaping up, looking for inside info when he calls his son.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm like, ‚ÄòI don‚Äôt know,‚Äô‚Äù Murray said. ‚ÄúThe only person I ever know is starting is David because I‚Äôm under center every time.‚Äù
That would be junior center David Andrews. Senior Kenarious Gates is also a safe bet to man the left tackle spot after dropping weight and feeling quicker. Senior Dallas Lee has held down his left guard position.
So there might not be quite the free-for-all for starting jobs that Murray portrays, but players and coaches say the Bulldogs‚Äô offensive line will be able to count on more guys in the trenches to get snaps in games this season.
‚ÄúWe may sub more than we have in a while because I think we‚Äôve got some guys that have earned the right to play and gained some confidence,‚Äù said coach Mark Richt, who returns all five starters on the line.
It‚Äôs the right side of the line in particular where offensive line coach Will Friend has options.
Senior Chris Burnette is a returning starter but said on Monday that he‚Äôs ‚Äúmaybe about 80 percent‚Äù coming off offseason shoulder surgery.
The return of Kolton Houston, now eligible after a three-year fight with the NCAA after testing positive for an anabolic steroid, has allowed Friend to line up both returning starter John Theus at right tackle and Houston.
Theus can go in for Burnette at right guard when Houston is at tackle. The players have shared work in practice.
‚ÄúI definitely feel like we‚Äôre more comfortable with that now than we have any time in the past,‚Äù Burnette said. ‚ÄúWe have a solid group and corps of guys who can definitely contribute and do a good job.‚Äù
That includes not only Houston, but guard Watts Dantzler and tackle Mark Beard.
‚ÄúThe offensive line has been switching in and out, guys rotating,‚Äù Murray said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôve had like eight or nine guys rotating with the ones throughout camp. That‚Äôs been great.‚Äù
All of which has made the Bulldogs deeper.
‚ÄúI feel like we have eight or nine guys who would be ready to step up and contribute in that first game of the year,‚Äù Burnette said.
Added Houston, who could also factor in at left tackle: ‚ÄúLast year ‚Ä¶ they weren‚Äôt really getting pushed, but when you have eight people, that breeds competition. That‚Äôs really good.‚Äù
Georgia‚Äôs starters could get more of a chance for a breather, which could keep legs fresh.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm happy for that,‚Äù Gates said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôve got a better rotation. We get guys in and out, guys that we trust. We can turn around eight, nine, maybe 10 guys we trust can go in the game and do what they‚Äôve got to do.‚Äù
Andrews said Georgia has more players that can rotate. And Gates said the line overall is ahead of where it was a year ago.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre better than last year,‚Äù Gates said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôve got more guys stepping up and we trust each other. We love playing with each other. We have fun and we push each other.‚Äù