A major factor in Georgia's underwhelming 6-7 finish last season was the offensive line, which was supposed to be one of the best in the nation but was plagued by minor injuries and just plain subpar conditioning all year long. If Georgia is to reclaim its strong tradition in the trenches, it will start with the 2011 recruiting class, which could bring in as many as five linemen on signing day.
The headliner is Zach DeBell, a four-star tackle out of Tarpon Springs, Florida, who committed in December. He checks in at a rangy 6'7", 265 pounds, with a frame that could hold 25 or 30 more. DeBell has been pegged as a prospect for redshirting while he builds up that additional weight; this is good in that Georgia returns a fair bit of line experience next season that he'll get to learn behind, bad in that it will likely deprive us (for the time being) of any soundbites in which DeBell expounds on his zombie-apocalypse survival strategy.
Not far behind him on the list of hot prospects is Watts Dantzler, a fellow offensive tackle from Dalton, Georgia. If the name sounds familiar, it's because he's the son of Danny Dantzler, who lettered for three years under Vince Dooley in the early 1970s; fittingly, Watts announced his choice of Georgia over Auburn this past Father's Day, a year after Danny lost a lengthy battle with Lou Gehrig's disease. At 6'7", 315, Watts carries no caveats about size or muscle, but he's also reported to be impressively quick on his feet; he's been ranked as the nation's 12th-best OL prospect by ESPN.
The OL class rounds out with three centers, headlined by David Andrews (6'2", 276) from Norcross, Georgia. Andrews is yet another product of Mark Richt's "snap 'em up early" strategy, having selected the Bulldogs last February shortly after a standout performance in the Army All-American Bowl combine in Texas. His competition, at least in the early going, will be Hunter Long, a 6'3", 293-pound prospect from western Tennessee who joins his older brother Austin on the Bulldogs' squad. The younger Long apparently impressed Georgia's coaches with his versatility; he'll be a candidate at both center and guard when he arrives in Athens.
The final OL recruit is 6'3", 255-pound Nathan Theus, a long-snap specialist from Jacksonville, Florida, and by all accounts (including Mark Richt's) the first long-snapper Richt has ever offered directly out of high school. Georgia's coaches have made no secret of their intention to play the long game with the Theus family, as Nathan's little brother John is considered the Sunshine State's top offensive line prospect for 2012. Nathan will grayshirt in 2011, which means he and his brother would begin their eligibility at the same time if John selects the Dawgs a year from now.