Line dance: Georgia offense unsettled with rotations at center, guard and tackle

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ATHENS — Bad snaps, missed blocks and holding penalties signaled a great fall from the supposed “Great Wall” of a season ago.

The reloaded Georgia offensive line struggled to get a push against Arkansas, a team that ranked last in the SEC in rushing defense a season ago.

The No. 4-ranked Bulldogs rallied last Saturday to beat the Razorbacks, 37-10, but they’ll face a considerably more difficult challenge against No. 7 Auburn at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday (TV: ESPN).

Most of the pregame chatter in Athens has centered around the quarterback position, with USC transfer JT Daniels cleared on Monday to play and Stetson Bennett coming off a 20-of-29 passing performance.

Coach Kirby Smart, however, is more concerned with the structure and execution of the offense surrounding the signal caller.

“It’s a lot more important how we play around him and how we support him,” Smart said.

A review of the last outing reveals nearly 100 yards of Georgia offense were wiped out in the first half at Arkansas on account of penalties, broken assignments and poor snaps.

Trey Hill was named preseason All-SEC center, but he did not look the part in the opener, as he had more than a couple of errant snaps.

RELATED: Kirby Smart details center issues at Georgia

Nothing throws off the timing of an offensive play like a poor snap, particularly in the shotgun set. Even if the quarterback can corral it, the timing is blown in the pass game, and run game calibration gets thrown off track.

“There were some holes, some things there that backs didn’t necessarily miss,” Smart said, asked about UGA’s sputtering run game at Arkansas, which generated just 2.9 yards per carry against the Razorbacks.

“Sometimes the snap was bad. And if you have a bad snap and it gets you off direction, you can’t have that. It takes a cumulative effect of everybody doing their job.”

New offensive line coach Matt Luke is juggling players up front in search of the right combination.

Redshirt sophomore Warren Ericson came in at center, and Hill was shifted over to right guard in favor of fifth-year senior Ben Cleveland.

Redshirt sophomore Owen Condon had his challenges at right tackle as well, and redshirt freshman Warren McClendon came in to solidify the spot.

Smart indicated it was a planned rotation.

“Offensive line is not a limelight position, but everybody writes a story about D’Wan [Mathis] and Stetson [Bennett] and don’t talk about the line very often,” Smart said. “That (rotation) has been going on all camp. That’s not something we haven’t done.

“We think Trey gives us a lot of flexibility at guard. We think Warren gives us flexibility at center.”

The Georgia starting offensive line could change from week-to-week, based on how the players compete.

“Those battles will continue all year, to be honest with you,” Smart said. “We feel good about those rotations we have. I thought those guys pass-probed pretty well. We didn’t get the holes we wanted in the run game, but some of that has to do with a lot of other things.”

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