It was good to see Sturdivant in good spirits, Richt said, but no one else in the Georgia locker room is laughing about losing the player who started all 13 games at a crucial offensive position last season.
“It’s sad for him, of course, because he worked so hard,” Richt said. “He got up to around the 310-pound range, stronger than he’s ever been, just has been practicing so well. It’s hard to lose his experience.”
Experience is the one thing Georgia doesn’t have much of on the offensive line.
Sophomore Josh Davis has taken snaps with the No. 1 offense the past two days, Richt said, but he has never started a game at the college level.
The opportunity to land the job, however, seemed to spark something in Davis at practice Tuesday, Richt said.
“I think his energy level moved up a notch thinking he might be the guy, and I liked what I saw,” Richt said. “He’s running with the No. 1 unit right now. It’s not like we said, ‘Don’t play Josh.’ He’s competing, and he’s at this moment in the lead for that job right now.”
That doesn’t mean there aren’t other options the coaching staff is considering.
Richt said a number of players rotated into the left tackle position during Tuesday’s practice, including Clint Boling, who will miss the first game of the season due to a suspension, Vince Vance and Cordy Glenn.
Glenn, a freshman, may be more likely to move to the right tackle position, Richt said. Glenn has been practicing with the first-team offense at right guard for the past few days, and Richt said the transition to tackle may be eased if he stays on the same side of the line.
That would move current right tackle Kiante Tripp to the left side, an option Richt said has not been used in practice so far.
“Cordy really has come along at right guard,” Richt said. “He’s talented enough to play right tackle. He could probably play left also, but he’s used to the right side.”
Regardless of the plan, it won’t be the option the coaching staff had hoped for, but as Richt put it, “at least we have possibilities.”
The quick progression Glenn has shown does make the task of replacing Sturdivant a bit easier. Richt said Glenn is physically ready to play, and the mental progression is coming along quickly. Although Glenn still doesn’t know what to do at all times, Richt said he reacts quickly to help from teammates, which is a positive sign.
“The question is how will he learn,” Richt said, “but I think it’s been outstanding how little he’s made a mistake.
The Bulldogs went through similar growing pains on the offensive line last season, with several freshmen, including Sturdivant, getting significant playing time while also adjusting to a new line coach, Stacy Searles.
“We are further along this year than we were last year up front,” Richt said. “The guys understand what coach Searles wants, too. A year ago we were still breaking in the new coach with the new players, and the guys have a much better understanding of how to get things done, so I think that’s helping.”
All the on-field chaos is of lesser concern for Richt. He said he has taken Sturdivant’s injury particularly hard, knowing how much work his sophomore had put in over the offseason.
“All the preparation it takes to get to this point, to be that close and not to be able to play, it’s got to be tough on him,” Richt said. “I don’t know how he’s going to feel after the surgery, which will be next week sometime. That’s when the real battle comes to rehab, go through the pain of that rehab, and the pain of watching your teammates play, it’ll be tough on him not to be out there.”
Senior defensive tackle Jeff Owens said he visited Sturdivant Monday night after the injury and gave his teammate a hug, telling him to keep his spirits up.
While Sturdivant won’t be out on the field, Owens said, he’ll still be an important part of the team.
“I think he’s going to be quite well,” Owens said, “because he’s got support. He’s got his team, the coaching staff and his family, and we’re all behind him 100 percent.”