Editor’s note: Each day between now and Georgia’s Capital One Bowl date with Nebraska, we will review the season for a key Bulldogs player and attempt to project what’s next. Today we’ll look at offensive lineman Kenarious Gates.
No. 72 Kenarious Gates
Role in 2012: One of Georgia’s most versatile offensive linemen, Gates started every game and filled in all across the line when necessary this fall.
The good: Gates’ natural position might be guard, but he held down the left tackle spot admirably for most of the season. As the season progressed, he often worked out of a three-man rotation on the left side of the line with Mark Beard and Dallas Lee. Gates played either guard or tackle, depending on which player was subbing in. Through his career, Georgia’s most experienced offensive lineman has played at least a few snaps at every position on the line except for center.
The bad: It is unlikely that Gates will forget what South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney did against him -- at least, mostly against him -- in Georgia’s lone loss of the regular season. The Gamecocks’ star pass-rusher completely overwhelmed Gates and Georgia’s other blockers, who flailed at him helplessly as he harassed Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray all night. Of course, Clowney finished sixth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy, so Gates wasn’t alone. But he needs to improve against elite pass-rushers next season if he stays at left tackle.
Crystal ball: Gates’ 2013 position might depend on how things go for Georgia on national signing day. If the Bulldogs sign five-star prospect Laremy Tunsil, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could contend for a starting spot at left tackle next season, much like true freshman John Theus did at right tackle this fall. Regardless, Gates is almost a certain bet to occupy a starting position somewhere as a senior after starting 25 games in the last three seasons.