Will Friend's first year as Georgia's offensive line coach wasn't without challenges, but Cordy Glenn and Ben Jones had a combined 70 career starts entering last season and headed a respectable unit.
Their departures have left Friend with a more daunting task this year.
"It's going to be tougher, and I think this group understands that we've got a big challenge and that people are wanting to see how we're going to respond," Friend said following Tuesday's practice. "We had two guys last year who had a lot of experience and had played a lot of football, but they're gone. Ben Jones and Cordy Glenn and even Justin Anderson brought a physicality to the game, so these younger guys know they've got to step it up in order to do the same thing."
Georgia's offensive linemen this spring have a combined 31 career starts, with 28 of those having been tallied last season at guard by Kenarious Gates, Chris Burnette and Dallas Lee. Gates made three starts at guard in 2010.
Friend has shuffled the first-team lineup several times during the first five spring practices, with Tuesday's lineup containing Gates at left tackle, Kolton Houston at left guard, Lee at center, Burnette at right guard and Austin Long at right tackle. David Andrews started spring as the first-team center, and former Dalton High standout Watts Dantzler began as the top right tackle.
"Watts is doing some things better," Friend said. "He's such a big, tall man that he's got to keep working on better pad level. He's got to continue to improve his footwork, but Watts is a guy who cares about Georgia and wants to get better. If he continues to work at it, he's got a chance."
Georgia's youthful line -- there isn't a senior in the bunch -- is getting contact work against a defensive front seven that returns intact, and the early results have been predictable.
"The defense won the day again," head coach Richt said after the two-and-a-half-hour practice. "Still, the offense is making progress. We still have a ways to go, but I am really pleased with everyone's efforts."
Friend is balancing the goals of finding his five best players and improving everybody's fundamentals, and he feels he's running out of time -- even in late March.
"Getting better fundamentally is an everyday goal, but as a coach you want to get guys in position to where you're playing the best five," he said. "If that means someone having to play guard and tackle, you have to work them at guard and tackle in the spring so that they'll be ready for that in the fall. I know we've got 15 spring practices and 29 before the season, but it really leaves you with not as much time as you would like."
Odds and ends
Recently retired Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward is in Athens visiting with offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, a former Bulldogs teammate, to see if coaching is something he would like to pursue. ... Former starting tailback Richard Samuel worked some at fullback Tuesday. ... Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden will be speaking Friday at Georgia's annual coaching clinic.
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 ...