If you follow University of Georgia Bulldog football recruiting you have probably already heard that the 'Dawgs got a verbal commitment yesterday from Coffeyville Community College offensive lineman Mark Beard. Beard, a native of Adamsville, Alabama, commited to Troy out of high school but after going the JUCO route chose Georgia over offers from Mississippi State and Arkansas. Beard's commitment was a fairly big deal (pun entirely intended), but just a piece of a larger recruiting puzzle, as we discuss after the jump.
If you're so inclined you can find some of Beard's highlights from this past season here. He's listed at 6'5, 295 pounds, which is a pretty nice set of numbers for an offensive tackle. As I've said in this space before, however, there are a lot of different ways to get to 295 pounds. Beard has a lot of the anatomic traits you want in an offensive tackle, though. Long arms to reach out and ensnare rushing defenders. Lots of weight in the lower body to help him withstand the bull rush of a defensive end. Is he a little chunky? Yeah. I mean the guy probably doesn't have 6 pack abs. But just from this film and the picture on his Hudl profile I'd say he's a little quality time with Coach Tereshinski away from being a solid 310 pounds.
That's one of the benefits of recruiting JUCO offensive linemen, by the way. Beard was listed around 6'3 and 265 pounds coming out of high school two years ago. A lot of other guys were, too. Some of them are languishing on college rosters now at about 275 pounds, 20 away from steady playing time. High school offensive linemen are difficult to scout for a variety of reasons, only one of which is that many of them simply are not physically mature yet. Line 3 of them up and you could play a corpulent game of Let's Make A Deal, one in which you don't really find out what's behind door #3 until 2 years down the road. But with a JUCO guy you get to see the finished product. Sure, he's got two years less experience in the team's system than his classmates. And you may only have him for a year or two. But you know what you have.
With Beard we have a very athletic offensive tackle prospect with lively feet. If I'm being critical (and I am, because that's kind of the point of this series, else we'd call it MaconDawg Spreads Flowery Ephemera About Football Prospects) I'd say I'm suspicious about why there are no passing plays in this highlight footage. I think, from what I've read elsewhere, that Coffeyville runs the ball about twice as often as they throw it, but still. Kind of odd. Also unsettling after watching poor Justin Anderson leaning and lurching around in the SEC Championship Game against LSU's defensive ends. Our problem this season was not finding guys who could fire out and maul defenders. It was being able to do the delicate hippo ballet routine of pass blocking speedy SEC defenders. I can't say from this footage that Beard solves that problem. He looks pretty quick on his feet, but I'd like to see him actually pass block.
Beard also could finish some of his blocks better. He does a good job getting off the line and engaging defenders but doesn't always stay locked on them the way you'd like.
Again, Beard is only part of a larger solution on the offensive line. At times this season we appeared to be playing a line put together by Paul Westhead: a collection of 5 guards. Part of the solution to that is, I believe, already on the roster. If Austin Long can stay healthy he may well be your opening week starter at left tackle. Watts Dantzler looked pretty good in mop up duty at right tackle. And redshirting freshmen Zack Debell and Xzavier Ward may well contribute at the tackle spots.
Just in case, Georgia has already secured a verbal commitment from Jacksonville (Bolles) tackle John Theus, the younger brother of current Bulldog Nathan Theus and arguably the top high school tackle in the country. Some have argued that Theus will start at left tackle for Georgia from day one. I somewhat doubt it. The last true freshman to do that was Trinton Sturdivant, and he walked into a depth situation even more dire than the current one. I could see Theus getting into the rotation, and just perhaps taking the majority of snaps by the end of his freshman season. But asking a true freshman to protect Aaron Murray's blind side from day one is a tall order. If we have to put in that order, I dare say it will indicate that we're in a serious pickle.
Mark Richt and staff also may not be done at tackle for 2012. They continue to pursue Palm Beach Gardens tackle Avery Young, who lists Auburn and Georgia as his top two choices. I don't know that Gus Malzahn's departure is really going to have any effect on an offensive lineman like Young, but the general recent turmoil on the WarPlainsPlausibleDeniabilityHolders' staff can't hurt our chances. Young reminds me a lot of Xzavier Ward in last year's class, a tall, rangy guy with good athleticism who needs to add strength and put on the right kind of weight to play in the SEC. But he's a better than even bet to get there. I'd be ecstatic if he ends up in Athens.
Georgia has also re-entered the sweepstakes for Cedar Grove tackle Brandon Greene, who had been commited to Alabama for a while. Rumors have recently surfaced that Greene is worried about playing time at Alabama and that his family might prefer for him to stay a little closer to home. Georgia is closer to home than Tuscaloosa. Georgia has playing time to offer talented offensive tackles. Greene took an official visit to Athens last weekend. After Greene's official visit to Georgia former Florida State pledge/offensive tackle Alphonse Taylor began showing renewed interest in the Crimson Tide. All of which makes me like our chances with Greene. It's no sure thing, but it all looks promising.
Finally, it would be a mistake to forget about Bradwell Institute offensive guard Chester Brown, a 6'4, 340 pound mountain of a kid with good feet and a mean streak. I like the limited film I've seen of Brown, and the interviews he's done make it seem that he really appreciates the chance to contribute in the Classic City. Seriously, keep an eye on this kid.
Ultimately it looks like Georgia will try to sign 6 offensive linemen in this class, which should go a long way toward addressing the depth issues we had this season. It's worth noting also that those issues will be addressed to some extent by last year's large offensive line class maturing a year and moving into the rotation. Together, it's safe to say that we're looking at a deep, experienced group by the start of the 2013 season.