In case you missed it, Mark Weiszer of the Athens Banner Herald had a solid piece this week pointing out that our young offensive line is no longer our biggest worry.
It's a good point. While we certainly have plenty of other things to worry us absolutely sick, the front five full of guys barely old enough to shave is no longer one of them. What's more, it looks like that young offensive line may be one of our biggest strengths moving forward.
There's still some very important football to be played in 2008. But think about it. Next season our offensive line will likely consist of the following individuals, with the following levels of experience:
Justin Anderson: Redshirt sophomore, 7 career starts.
Clint Boling: Junior, 25 game appearances, 23 career starts.
Chris Burnette: Freshman
Chris Davis: Redshirt sophomore, 26 game appearances, 26 career starts.
Josh Davis: Redshirt junior, 19 game appearances, 4 starts
Cordy Glenn: Sophomore, 13 game appearances, 10 starts.
Ben Harden: Redshirt sophomore.
A.J. Harmon: Redshirt freshman
Ben Jones: Sophomore, 13 game appearances, 10 career starts.
Dallas Lee: Freshman
Austin Long: Freshman
Jonathan Owens: Redshirt freshman
Kevin Perez: Redshirt junior, 9 game appearances
Tanner Strickland: Redshirt sophomore, 11 game appearances.
Trinton Sturdivant: Redshirt sophomore, 13 game appearances, 13 career starts.
Kiante Tripp: Redshirt junior, 19 game appearances, 3 starts.
Vince Vance: Senior, 17 game appearances, 6 starts.
That's 11 guys with significant game experience, and a total of 102 career starts among them. Let that sink in for a second. 102. As intrepid blog correspondent Darius Dawgberry noted (and I'm paraphrasing here) after the Alabama game: "they may be getting tossed around like a bunch of puppies now, but our litter of puppies is gonna be grown up soon." At least three players with four or more career starts will have to come off the bench. Throw in Kiante Tripp and his three starts, and you have a complete second team offensive line (with the exception of the center) with at least some starting experience.
This is all the more significant given the speculation about whether or not Knowshon Moreno and Matthew Stafford will be back next season. If they're not, their replacements are going to need all the help they can get. Richard Samuel, Caleb King, Carlos Thomas and Dontavius Jackson could be vying to replace a tailback who's consistently turned small holes into 20 yard gains and no holes into 4 yard gains this season. Joe Cox and Logan Gray will be the leaders to replace a quarterback who, while liable to throw a painful interception at a moment's notice, also has shown a solid ability to avoid being sacked and has handled pressure very, very well.
Add to that my solid belief that the team that plays the best along both lines usually wins, and you can understand why I'm excited about 2009 (even if we have a lot of work yet to do in 2008). What else is interesting about that veteran group? Vince Vance will be the only senior, which bodes well for 2010. Just something to think about.
Until later . . .