April 6, 2011

Gates not taking starting job for granted

It was the Sunday before National Signing Day in Feb. of 2010 and the mother of current Bulldog sophomore Kenarious Gates was busy making sure she had plenty of Kentucky blue paraphernalia to celebrate with.

Those plans changed when Georgia called on Monday, making the big offensive lineman an offer he couldn't refuse.

"My mom was ready, but she was still glad with wherever I decided to go," said Gates, who despite being on campus for less than a year, appears to have the upper hand this spring in the battle to see who earns the starting job at left guard.

Gates admits the past year has been somewhat of a whirlwind.

Although he was recruited by Georgia while a senior at Greenville High, it appeared the Bulldogs would not have room for the 6-foot-5, 328 pounder, so when Kentucky offered him a scholarship to play SEC ball, he jumped at the chance.

Gates said he was looking forward to beginning his career in the Bluegrass State, until a late scholarship opened which enabled former offensive line coach Stacy Searels to place that Monday call, asking if he would consider changing his mind.

It was only a matter of seconds before Gates gave his answer.

"I didn't hesitate because I always wanted to play for Georgia. I'm glad to be here," Gates said. "It came out of the blue, at the very last minute. I was not expecting anyone to call, but when they did and gave me the offer, I jumped on it."

Kentucky's loss has certainly been Georgia's gain.

Gates went from a player many predicted to redshirt to one who wound up playing in seven games, including three starts.

His progress apparently was also one of the reasons new offensive line coach Will Friend decided to go ahead and move Cordy Glenn from left guard to right tackle, confident that Gates could do the job.

"Getting to start last year gave me a lot of confidence but I'm still working hard every day," he said. "Last season getting to play in the middle of the season really built my confidence up for this season. I'm at left guard now, but I've got to keep working hard because I know that any spot can be given up at any day."

Friend appears to be determined to make left guard the home for Gates, who played right guard last fall after just playing tackle in high school.

"It's not really a big difference," Gates said. "It's a heap different being outside than on the inside. The speed of the game is different, but I think I'm doing pretty well there right now."

Gates admits he was surprised last year turned out the way he did.

Like many, Gates initially assumed he would redshirt, but after a strong preseason camp, Searels reconsidered and when the Bulldogs hosted Tennessee, his name was in the starting lineup for the first time.

"I was shocked (when he was named a starter). I did not think I was going to get a chance to play last season," he said. "I was just going to work hard. At first when I got out there it was wild, but once I got in I was able to have some fun."

Gates said he's definitely having fun this spring, knowing he'll have the opportunity to be the starter for the season opener against Boise State, a lineup that currently includes Trinton Sturdivant at left tackle, Ben Jones at center, Chris Burnette at right guard and Glenn at right tackle.

"I am," he said. "But I know I've got to keep my head on straight and keep working hard to keep my starting job."

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