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Matt Hinton

Mr. Sturdivant leaves a considerable hole

Matt Hinton
Dr. Saturday

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This is not exactly the kind of quote you want to read from your head coach in August:

"I don't know for sure how bad it is but it swelled up pretty good," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "[Head trainer] Ron [Courson] went to the hospital to get the pictures."

Asked if he thought it was a season-ender, Richt looked down at the floor of the team-meeting room.

"You always fear that," he said. " ... It makes you sick. It's just sad."

The catalyst of Richt's angst is one Trinton Sturdivant, 290 pounds of prototype left tackle who -- as expected by his considerable recruiting hype -- anchored a young line as a true freshman and had every expectation of becoming an elite SEC blocker as a sophomore. There's no word yet on the severity of the injury beyond "could be season-ending," so the projections might be less dire by the end of the week. Unless it's Dick Vermeil, though, a coach fighting back tears is about as bad a sign for amateur diagnosis as they come.

As much as the focus on Georgia's impending season of doom has centered on Knowshon Moreno and Matt Stafford, it's a given that the projections of grandeur hinged on the continued maturity of the offensive line, which started three freshman last year and was every bit as responsible for UGA's late surge as the pass rush and Moreno's emergence in the backfield. See the panicked reaction of the Red and Black faithful for some idea of Sturdivant's (mostly unspoken) value to the prospective title run: he had the brightest future of that precocious group, and his absence immediately downgrades expectations for the unit from tacit strength to nervous liability. Sophomore Josh Davis is the No. 2 left tackle on the depth chart, but the inevitable reshuffling could shift either guard (Clint Boling started one game at right tackle; Vince Vance spent all of 2007 as a tackle in practice) or projected right tackle Kiante Tripp to Stafford's blind side. Center Chris Davis started every game last year at left guard, which gives them a little flexibility if a true freshman like Cordy Glenn or Ben Jones moves into the picture.

But the afore-linked Paul Westerdawg is justifiably wary: if Boling moves from right guard, where he started ten games in his first year, every position up front will have a different face than it did during the scorched earth run to No. 2. For a team depending so much on maintaining the continuity and momentum of that surge, against a schedule that goes from 0 to 100 in a matter of weeks and hardly lets up through Thanksgiving, that's an awfully large speed bump.<p>

UPDATE, 3:06 CT: It's official: Sturdivant will miss the season. Ouch, dude.

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Picture via United PressWire

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