Stacy Searels has a mantra he's likely to repeat every time he's asked a question about the five starters on his offensive line - "The best five guys will play."
As of Saturday, that group included freshman Kenarious Gates who made his college debut as the starter at right guard with Trinton Sturdivant at left tackle and Clint Boling at right tackle.
According to Searels, fans should get used to that combination the rest of the year.
"I'd like to have more guys contribute and I'm sure there will be but I like those five guys' athleticism and potential to play," Searels said. "We've just got to play better as a group, finish blocks, run the ball effectively and protect the quarterback. That's our job."
Gates is apparently helping to make that job easier.
Although Sereals only decided to give the Grantville native his shot last week against Tennessee, Gates has had his coach's attention for quite some time.
"During camp he competed well. He just kept catching my eye, whether it was in drills or in scrimmages. I was really, really pleasantly surprised with him," Searels said. "I'm like this kid needs to play. So, when you're ready to play, we'll play you."
Saturday, Searels was pleased with what he saw.
"There was a play or two where he could have done better, but there's a bunch of us who could do better. He didn't have a lot of busts, he did compete," Searels said. "I was pleased with him. I think he's got a bright future."
It may not just be at guard.
According to Searels, the 6-foot-5, 305-pounder has the athleticism to play just about any position on the offensive line.
"He could play guard, he could play tackle. He's a very intelligent kid coming out of high school. He picks things up quickly. I can ask him questions and he's got the answer," Searels said. "I think he understands and that goes a long way once you get out there in the line of fire, having the right answers and being able to execute. For the most part he did that Saturday."
Getting to play alongside Boling at right tackle and Ben Jones at center certainly helped.
"Those guys have played a lot of ball and they can communicate with him. They helped him out a lot and that's always very important up front for guys to communicate," Searels said. "The more you're with a guy you know what he's going to do before he does it. Sometimes they don't have to talk because they trust each other, but with a young guy you've got to be able to communicate and talk with him."
Searels is just glad he was able to get Gates to sign with the Red and Black.
Gates had verbally committed to SEC rival Kentucky before some defections by other prospects late in the recruiting process allowed Georgia to make a late offer.
"It was a huge get for us. We really didn't have a spot early on. We were full in our commitments and our number at the O-line was huge. A number came available, and he was a kid I watched play basketball, a kid I watched play in football, games and playoffs so it wasn't like we didn't recruit the kid," Searels said. "We did offer him late. Once he jumped in I was very pleased because he's 6-5, 305-310 got athleticism you could see playing basketball. I love the way he's progressed and I'm glad he's at Georgia."
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