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UGA's young line faces tough matchup at LSU

ATHENS - No deep analysis is required to see that Georgia's offensive line is headed toward a tough matchup at LSU.

For the most part, it'll be Georgia's underclassmen against LSU's upperclassmen.

Georgia's offensive line includes three freshmen and two sophomores. It has no seniors or juniors on its depth chart - starters or backups.

LSU lists five seniors, two juniors and a sophomore on its two-deep list of defensive linemen. At least three seniors are likely to start on the four-man line.

The quick summation from coach Mark Richt isn't encouraging for Georgia fans: 'Their youngest guy matches our oldest guy. ... When you look on paper, it is pretty scary, to say the least.'

There may be one area where the units are even in the important Southeastern Conference matchup between No. 9 Georgia and No. 11 LSU on Saturday: Each will carry momentum into the game.

LSU recorded six sacks and held South Carolina to 42 yards in the second half of the Tigers' 24-17 win at South Carolina last week.

Georgia's line hasn't given up a sack in the last two games, wins against Tennessee and Vanderbilt.

'They're just still feeling their way around a little bit, but I like the way they're playing,' Richt said of assistant coach Stacy Searels' line.

'I don't think they feel like they're rookies anymore. They've played enough that they're not nervous going into a game and they have a very good feel of what's expected of them from coach Searels.'

Searels came to Georgia last season after coaching LSU's line for four years.

Searels has had to coach his way around more than just a lack of experience. Georgia lost its top lineman, left tackle Trinton Sturdivant, to a season-ending knee injury in preseason drills. Another starting left tackle, Vince Vance, was lost for the season to a knee injury two weeks ago against Tennessee.

Searels has used four combinations of starters.

A complicating factor was injuries to tight ends Tripp Chandler and Bruce Figgins, which forced Richt to move Kiante Tripp, the starting left tackle in the first three games, to tight end. Tripp returned to tackle after Vance's injury, but the moves disrupted his momentum.

'I think the whole thing is wearing on him a little bit,' Richt said Wednesday.

'It's been tough on him. It's not easy to be going from one position to another, especially when it's drastic. It's one thing to go from left tackle to right tackle. It's another to go from tackle to tight end.'

Tripp, a sophomore, is expected to play behind sophomore Clint Boling and freshman Justin Anderson at the tackle spots. First-year center Ben Jones is flanked by guards Cordy Glenn, another true freshman, and Chris Davis, a sophomore.

Senior fullback Brannan Southerland, a Greater Atlanta Christian grad, said it will be important to give the line as much help as possible.

'We're going to need the line, the running backs, the tight ends, everybody to help out, because it's the best D-line we're going to play all year long,' Southerland said.

The line has played well enough for Georgia to lead the SEC with its average of almost 430 yards per game and rank third in the league with almost 32 points per game.

'They have a really talented offensive line, so we just can't go in there trying to win just off experience,' said LSU senior defensive end Tyson Jackson, who is second in the SEC with 4.5 sacks, including two against South Carolina.

'But experience does play a major role, especially on the defensive line where sometimes we can communicate without even talking out there. That's a big advantage because you're not giving the offensive line a heads-up on what's about to happen next.'

Georgia's offensive linemen don't look like rookies. Glenn is 6-foot-5 and 331 pounds. Anderson is listed at 6-foot-5 and 338 pounds. Jones also tops 300 pounds.

LSU's veterans say they must respect any line coached by Searels.

'I know they lost one of their best players early on in the year to a knee injury, but I heard they're a really good offensive front and I know they are well-coached over there with coach Searels,' said end Kirtson Pittman, another senior.

'We know they're going to be a good bunch. They're a really good front, even though they're a little inexperienced. They do some really good things. I heard they're really good with their feet and good with their hands, so we're just going to have to study the film, study our opponent and see what opportunities and what advantages we can get.'

Added Pittman: 'Just by saying we have an edge with experience is not fair. It's just something we're going to have to get a grasp on and really get in touch with.'

SideBar: NO. 9 GEORGIA AT NO. 11 LSU

When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

Where: Baton Rouge, La.

TV/Radio: CBS/750-AM