Georgia coaches open competition on offensive line

Georgia has relied on the same starting lineup on its offensive line all season except for the two games in November when guard Chris Burnette was sidelined with a shoulder injury.

But changes up front could be coming for the Capital One Bowl against Nebraska on Jan. 1.

Coaches have opened up the competition on the line for the eight on-campus bowl practices.

“We felt like, with Mark Beard and Austin Long making improvement this year, they ought to be given an opportunity to earn a starting job going into this ball game,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said Monday.

Offensive line coach Will Friend said left guard and right tackle were the most-heated position battles. Bobo also mentioned left tackle.

“Those three spots are kind of moving (parts) to see who the best five are going to be,” Friend said.

Kenarious Gates started every game at left tackle except when Burnette was out. Gates then moved to left guard, and Beard, the junior college transfer, stepped in at left tackle. Freshman John Theus has started every game at right tackle.

“I’m definitely proud of the way Theus played this year, but I think all of those guys can play a little bit better,” Bobo said. “It could be Gates over there and Beard at left tackle. I don’t know what it’s going to be.”

Dallas Lee and Gates are competing at left guard.

Friend “wants to keep everybody sharp and keep everybody competing,” head coach Mark Richt said last week. “Sometimes there’s guys that don’t play because they don’t quite know it as good as another guy. There’s some guys that have been coming along. I don’t know if they’ll win a job this game, but there’s still going to be some pretty good open competition in the spring for that O-line.”

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RT @chris_starrs: UGA’s Christian Payne saw his first playing time last week against Arkansas. http://t.co/eFBPVIEFWV

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