ATHENS, Ga. — Even Aaron Murray’s father is quizzing the Georgia quarterback about how the offensive line in front of him is shaping up.
“I’m like, ‘I don’t know,’ ” Murray said. “The only person I ever know is starting is David because I’m under center every time.”
That would be junior center David Andrews. Senior Kenarious Gates is also a safe bet at left tackle 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’ offensive line will be able to count on more guys in the trenches to get snaps in games this season.
“We may sub more than we have in a while because I think we’ve got some guys that have earned the right to play and gained some confidence,” said coach Mark Richt, who returns all five starters on the line.
It’s the right side of the line where offensive line coach Will Friend has options.
Senior Chris Burnette is a returning starter but said on Monday that he’s “maybe about 80 percent” coming off off-season 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
“We have a solid group and corps of guys who can definitely contribute and do a good job,” Burnette said.
That includes not only Houston, but guard Watts Dantzler and tackle Mark Beard.
“The offensive line has been switching in and out, guys rotating,” Murray said. “We’ve had like eight or nine guys rotating with the ones throughout camp. That’s been great.”
All of which has made the Bulldogs deeper.
“I feel like we have eight or nine guys who would be ready to step up and contribute in that first game of the year,” Burnette said.
Added Houston, who could also factor in at left tackle: “Last year … they weren’t really getting pushed, but when you have eight people, that breeds competition. That’s really good.”
Georgia’s starters could get more of a chance for a breather, which could keep legs fresh.
“I’m happy for that,” Gates said. “We’ve 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’ve got to do.”
Andrews said Georgia has more players that can rotate. And Gates said the line overall is ahead of where it was a year ago.
“We’re better than last year,” Gates said. “We’ve got more guys stepping up and we trust each other. We love playing with each other. We have fun and we push each other.”