An Opportunity To Step Up

ATHENS – Coach Will Friend says he knows what injured left tackle Trinton Sturdivant is going through.

Sturdivant had surgery Tuesday to repair the ACL in his right knee—the third major knee injury the senior suffered in his career.

Friend, who played at Alabama in the mid-90s, also suffered a knee injury in college.

"I was hurt as a player…that's tough on anybody," Friend, in his first spring as a coach at Georgia, said. "Obviously somebody who has had a couple of them is tough. You don't want to see that."

Certainly Sturdivant's injury was a blow, especially considering his 21 career starts at the left tackle position.

"It's a huge loss," said quarterback Aaron Murray. "Trinton is a tremendous player. I mean, he protected my backside for 13 games last year, so I built a lot of trust with him. We've got a lot of guys working together up front…we're just going to have to have some guys step up."

Currently, the players stepping up in Sturdivant's absence are seniors Cordy Glenn, Justin Anderson and junior A.J. Harmon.

Glenn, who played guard last season, had already been rotating with Sturdivant at left tackle this spring. He is essentially locked in as the starter there now.

"I'm starting to get my rhythm back," Glenn said. "It's a little bit of an adjustment playing guard to tackle. I think with a couple practices I'm getting use to it. It's helped me out."

Anderson, who played on the defensive line last season after two years on offense, is now the current No. 1 at right tackle, according to Friend. Anderson, Harmon, and injured Austin Long (shoulder) appear to be the prominent players at the position exiting spring and heading into the summer.

"Obviously we moved Justin Anderson there some this week," Friend said. "He's played it before, so we moved Anderson over and played it some more. A.J. is working there. I feel good about those guys as far as seeing potential and seeing things they can do. Austin Long has to come back. He's been banged up. When we get Austin Long back, we'll go from there."

The depth at tackle is obviously dicey, as Harmon as seen time in only seven games, and Long has spent his time in Athens recovering from a back injury.

"A.J. is a guy that has a lot of talent," said offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. "Hasn't been consistent enough to play like he should. I think he sees this as an opportunity, and lot of times when an opportunity presents itself, guys like this they tend to step up. That's what we think A.J. will do. He's got the ability. He's just got to be more consistent."

Anderson will still see time at right guard, where redshirt sophomore Chris Burnette worked with the first team Tuesday, according to Bobo.

"We've been very pleased with Burnette this spring," Bobo said. "He's done a nice job."

The mix-and-match continues, as Burnette is also the second team center behind Ben Jones.

Currently, left guard is controlled by sophomore Kenarious Gates, who appeared in seven games in 2010, making three starts.

"Gates has had a good spring at times," Friend said. "I think he could really be a good football player for us if he'll get the mindset. You forget he's as young as he is, and I think he could really be a good football player. This summer is going to be big for him."

Redshirt freshman Kolton Houston is currently Gates' chief backup, Friend said.

"I think a lot of people fall right into thinking about the tackle a lot, and they forget about those guys in the middle at guard," Friend said.

Brent Benedict, a redshirt freshman, is also in the running for playing time, working mainly at right guard this spring.

"He's gotten better," Friend said of Benedict. "He's still got a ways to go. If he'll just hang in there he's going to be fine. He's got a ways to go, but he's getting better though."

With everything somewhat sorted out for the moment, it's apparent Bobo and Friend have numerous options to work with—but have yet to settle on an established starting unit.

"That's what the next few months are for," Friend said.

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