published Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Georgia offensive line facing biggest job

Georgia Bulldogs UGA logo
Georgia Bulldogs UGA logo

BENNETT OUT FOR YEAR

Georgia redshirt sophomore receiver Michael Bennett suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament on the final play of Tuesday's practice and is out for the season. The 6-foot-3, 204-pounder from Alpharetta, Ga., leads the Bulldogs with 24 receptions for 345 yards and four touchdowns.

"It is very sad that it happened," coach Mark Richt said. "He was engaged in a block, and no one ran into to him or rolled into him or anything like that. His knee buckled, and there it was."

Bennett will undergo reconstructive surgery, but that has not been set.

Seniors Marlon Brown and Tavarres King rank second and third for the Bulldogs with 17 and 16 receptions, and sophomore Malcolm Mitchell can expect an increased role after catching four passes for 31 yards in last week's win over Tennessee.

ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia's offensive line is among the better feel-good stories this season in Southeastern Conference football, with the better-than-expected quintet getting rewarded weekly from quarterback Aaron Murray with Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

The tale introduces new characters this Saturday, as the Bulldogs travel to South Carolina to face a defensive front led by the towering end tandem of senior Devin Taylor and sophomore Jadeveon Clowney. Taylor has 17 career sacks, which ties Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones for the most among active SEC players, while Clowney has compiled 13.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss in just 18 career games.

"This game will definitely be the best gauge," Georgia coach Mark Richt said of his offensive front. "South Carolina's defense is playing great. They were pretty darn good last year and the year before and the year before that.

"They've just got a tradition now that has built up over time that they believe. It's obvious that they believe, and they should."

South Carolina's defensive front, which also includes tackles Kelcy Quarles and Byron Jerideau and backup ends Aldrick Fordham and Chaz Sutton, has led a unit that allows 77.6 rushing yards a game and 2.2 yards a carry. The Gamecocks have given up five touchdowns in five games, and their 11.2 points per game allowed ranks second in the league behind top-ranked Alabama.

The Gamecocks lead the SEC with 22 sacks, with 18 of those coming from the front and 5.5 from Clowney.

"Jadeveon is playing very well -- he and Devin Taylor," Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said. "I saw where one of those ESPN expert guys thought we had the best defensive line in the country with those two and our inside guys, who are pretty dang good players, also."

Clowney, the nation's top overall prospect in the 2011 signing class, introduced himself to the college football world during South Carolina's 45-42 win at Georgia last season. The 6-foot-6, 256-pounder had two sacks and caused Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray to fumble with 3:21 remaining in the game.

Former Gamecocks defensive end Melvin Ingram recovered the fumble at Georgia's 5-yard line and scored to put the game away at 45-35.

"We faced those guys last year, so we know what kind of speed they have off the ball and their ability to make big plays," Bulldogs junior guard Chris Burnette said. "We understand the impact they can have on the game, so we're going to try to do something to thwart that."

Burnette, the only offensive lineman Georgia coaches made available to the media this week, believes his front has to be aggressive in passing situations to prevent Clowney and Taylor from jumping up to bat passes. Taylor is 6-foot-8 and 267 pounds and has earned All-SEC honors each of the past two seasons.

Saturday will be a gargantuan test for Georgia freshman right tackle John Theus, whose first career road game at Missouri last month contained three false-start penalties and two sacks allowed.

"I'm going to make sure he stays calm and not get overly hyped up," Burnette said, "because it's easy to get overly hyped up on the road, especially against a good defensive line. We're going to try and stick together and communicate and do the best we can."

Said Murray: "Any freshman in this kind of hostile environment is going to have some jitters. I'm going to have some jitters this week, and I think everyone is."

Odds and ends

The Bulldogs worked out for two hours Wednesday. ... Malcolm Mitchell was originally scheduled to practice at cornerback but worked at receiver following Tuesday's season-ending loss of Michael Bennett with a torn ACL. ... Richt said Bennett brought a toughness to the receivers and added that freshman Blake Tibbs was still on track to redshirt. ... Richt said that Jones is not back at 100 percent from the groin injury he sustained at Missouri.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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