Georgia junior offensive lineman Kenarious Gates can take a break from watching "The Blind Side."
He's too busy living it.
After making nine starts at left guard last season, Gates worked as the starting left tackle Tuesday as the Bulldogs held their first of 15 spring practices. The importance of that position was a focus of the 2009 motion picture starring Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw and Quinton Aaron that detailed the unique upbringing of former Ole Miss and current Baltimore Ravens left tackle Michael Oher.
"That's my favorite movie," Gates said after practice. "I met Michael Oher when I was in high school, and he's always been my favorite player. I've seen it at least 10 times, and it will never get old. I love it every time."
Gates, a 6-foot-5, 328-pounder from Grantville, Ga., has been given the first crack at supplanting Cordy Glenn, who is projected as a first-round pick in next month's NFL draft. He made three starts at right guard as a freshman in 2010, but he practiced some at tackle that season and played left tackle in high school.
"I think it's the most important job on the field, because you've got to protect your quarterback, and you've got to be athletic and smart to play the position," Gates said. "I've always felt like it was my natural position. You've got to have quicker feet and move quicker than you do at guard, but other than that it's about the same."
Practicing as the starting right tackle Tuesday was former Dalton High standout Watts Dantzler. Kolton Houston and Chris Burnette were the No. 1 guards and David Andrews the top center.
Gates had been committed to Kentucky before receiving a scholarship offer from the Bulldogs late in the recruiting process. He claims he never held any grudge against Georgia while he was committed to the Wildcats, and he is not buying into the opinion that the offensive line is currently his team's weak link.
"We're really not trying to pay attention to what people are saying on the outside," he said. "We have the potential to be one of the best O-lines in the country. We've just got to keep working."
Tailback Carlton Thomas, who rushed for 127 yards in last year's win over Auburn and started the SEC championship game against LSU, has decided to play his senior season elsewhere.
The 5-foot-7, 163-pounder from Frostproof, Fla., played in 27 career games, amassing 159 carries for 725 yards and two touchdowns. He informed coach Mark Richt of his intentions Tuesday morning and departs a tailback competition that includes Isaiah Crowell, Richard Samuel, Ken Malcome and newcomer Keith Marshall.
"This decision was based solely on the fact that this is my last year to play, and my parents and I felt like it was the right move to make," Thomas said. "I want to make more of an impact on the field. I didn't want to disrupt Georgia's team and preparation for next season, so I made the final decision to leave earlier rather than later in the year."
Georgia's pecking order at tailback Tuesday was Crowell, Samuel, Malcome and Marshall.
Odds and ends
The Bulldogs worked out for two hours in helmets and shorts, and afterward Richt praised the enthusiasm of sophomore receiver-turned-cornerback Malcolm Mitchell and the quickness and knowledge of Marshall. ... Crowell told reporters after practice that he played late last year with torn ligaments in his left ankle and that one of his goals this season is making a run at the Heisman Trophy. ... A pair of outside linebackers last season, Cornelius Washington and Ray Drew, worked Tuesday at defensive end. ... Richt said sophomore inside linebacker Ramik Wilson missed the practice due to personal reasons.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...