Last night Kyle pointed out the incredibly disappointing news that offensive tackle Trinton Sturdivant tore the ACL in his right knee over the weekend, after having torn the left (along with other ligaments in that knee) twice previously. It's a horrible blow to a young man who's already overcome a lot just to be on a football field. Those who spend significant time around the Bulldog football team will unanimously tell you that Sturdivant is a wonderful young man who deserves better than to have this kind of thing happen to him once again.
However, it has happened and one is left to wonder what happens next. It is unlikely that Trinton will be playing for the Bulldogs in 2011. The season opener against Boise State is less than five months away, and five months is not even close to enough time to heal from ACL repair surgery and build up enough strength to take the pounding of SEC football. He might decide to enter the NFL Draft surrounded by an awful lot of injury questions, or he might just give up football altogether. Alternately, Sturdivant would be a fifth year senior this season, but could petition the NCAA for a 6th year of eligibility for 2012. The 6th year grant is fairly rare (I think defensive end Will Thompson was the last Bulldog to get one), and essentially requires a player to have missed two seasons as a result of serious injury. Trinton Sturdivant would be a prime candidate for such dispensation, if he wanted to go through it.
Unfortunately, that does not do Will Friend or the rest of the Georgia coaches any good right now. Somebody has to play on the offensive front. Five somebodies, if we're being technical (and like Mike Bobo refusing to acknowledge the existence of the tight end). Sturdivant and Cordy Glenn were each seeing time at both left and right tackle. The odds were that those would have been the starters at tackle, it was just a question of who would be on Aaron Murray's blind side and who would be on his throwing side. Now, assuming that Glenn takes the blind side assignment by default, the question becomes "who plays right tackle?" That's where the guessing games start.
Kenarious Gates has worked at tackle, but is currently slotted to start at guard, the position at which he was an occasional starter as a true freshman. A.J. Harmon and Austin Long are listed as the backup tackles on the depth chart, but Long has suffered from back problems that kept him out of action for the entirety of his freshman season. Harmon has never really found a home, and his big body has always seemed more at home at guard. I'm not saying he's slow-footed, I'm just saying that athletically he's no Trinton Sturdivant.
Redshirt freshman Brent Benedict is another option, but he himself is coming off of major knee surgery. His fellow redshirt freshman Kolton Houston has been working at guard, though at "only" 291 pounds he's easily the smallest lineman on the two deep and may or may not be ready to hold down the tackle spot. Justin Anderson has the frame to play tackle, and has in the past, but is coming back from the defensive side of the ball and may have to start at one of the guard spots. Chris Burnette is backing up Ben Jones at center and has zero tackle experience that I am aware of. Ditto for Dallas Lee.
So while we always knew that Sturdivant was only one play away from being back on the surgical table, and that our offensive line rotation for 2011 was held together with paperclips and duct tape, it's still a little disconcerting that we've actually managed to go from bad to worse along the front five. The issue isn't so much the number of bodies, as there are still 10 scholarship offensive linemen on campus with assistance coming from freshmen Zach Debell, Watts Dantzler, Hunter Long and David Andrews in the fall*. It's that very few of these guys have any significant starting experience, and the ones that have on occasion run with the first string in game action (Bean Anderson, Gates and Harmon for example) have not used that opportunity to secure a spot for the long term. About all we know now is that Ben Jones is playing center, Cordy Glenn's playing where we need him, Clint Boling's not here to be plugged in at a moment's notice, and Will Friend is going to have to earn his paycheck this fall. That paycheck may be denominated in Rolaids and headache powder. Until later . . .
*Another freshman offensive lineman, Xzavier Ward, will be rehabing from shoulder surgery this fall and is not as likely to jump in come August.