Mark Beard may not be the most talked-about player in Georgia's 2012 signing class, but there's little question he's being expected to play an integral role for the Bulldogs next fall.
With the graduation of Cordy Glenn, Justin Anderson and Ben Jones, Georgia's offensive line figures to be a major point of focus for the Bulldogs this spring, so the more big bodies available to try and fill in the gaps the better it will be.
That's where the 6-foot-4, 300-pound Beard comes in.
As one of Georgia's three early enrollees, Bulldog coaches won't waste any time seeing what the Alabama native can do.
"They want me at tackle, but they know I can play anywhere," he said. "They told me it was mainly left tackle, but I could play guard or whatever."
Offensive line coach Will Friend said he plans on giving Beard a long, hard look.
"We're going to look at him at tackle," Friend said back in Tampa during preparations for the Outback Bowl. "You know how we like to move guys around a little bit."
Friend says Beard has the versatility to play a number of roles.
"We feel he's going to come in and help us. He's got a real good toughness. We're very excited about him," Friend said. "He's a big body that moves very well, with big, strong hips. We think he's going to be a good player."
Beard, who has three years to play three, since he redshirted his first year at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, laughed that he won't be picky.
He'll play wherever he's asked to.
"Whatever it takes to start," he said.
Beard figures to be one of several players to get a look at left tackle this spring. Others include Austin Long, Kenarious Gates and eventually five-star freshman John Theus when he arrives on campus with the rest of Georgia's 2012 class in June.
In the meantime, Beard hopes the opportunity he'll have this spring will put him in position to be ahead of the proverbial game.
"I think it's a great advantage," he said. "Just the fact you're able to come in and go through the same weight program as the rest of the team, plus the work I'll get in the spring, it should help me out a whole lot."
Beard relishes the opportunity he's getting to play for the Bulldogs.
As a senior at Minor High in Adamsville, Ala., poor grades and the fact he only weighed 265 pounds, kept big-time programs away.
In fact, Troy University was the only major college to offer a scholarship, before grades dictated he went the junior college route to Kansas and Coffeyville C.C.
"Troy was really the only school who showed interest," said Beard, who out of high school was offered by Georgia Southern, South Alabama and Arkansas State. "But I always felt I could play in the SEC, so going to junior college gave me the opportunity to do what, plus be able to have some grades this time."
Beard obviously made his time in Kansas pay off, as he was able to acquire offers from Houston, Mississippi State, Troy and UAB before giving the Friend the news that he would be headed to Athens.
The two knew each other from Friend's days at UAB.
"I have been knowing Coach Friend since I was in high school, and he is a great guy," said Beard. "He showed me that I have a chance for playing time, and I just really like the system a lot."
He felt the same about the university.
"I just felt real good about the school, basically," Beard said. "I felt like if I went here and didn't play football, that I'd be comfortable here. "
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