Austin Long’s football career at Georgia is over.
The 6-foot-5, 287-pound senior offensive lineman has lost his eligibility because of an academic issue, several people familiar with the situation told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Long has not practiced with the Bulldogs during preseason camp while appealing the matter. Word came late Wednesday that his appeal was unsuccessful.
Reached by telephone Thursday, Long declined to get into details, but said that he and his parents are scheduled to meet with coach Mark Richt on Friday, and an announcement should be forthcoming after that.
Later Thursday, UGA offensive coordinator Mike Bobo confirmed the Bulldogs will be without Long this season.
“I feel for the kid,” said Bobo, who had Long penciled in as his starting right guard at the end of spring practice. “It’s a tough situation he’s been going through. He had worked extremely hard on the field to put himself in position to get into the rotation. I got a chance to see him (Wednesday) night at the scrimmage, and I just told him I was thinking about him and know it’s tough.”
Long, 22, came to UGA as a highly touted member of the 2009 recruiting class. He graduated from Briarcrest Christian in Memphis, Tenn., as a consensus high school All-American and five-star prospect as an offensive tackle. But he underwent two back surgeries before taking a snap for the Bulldogs. He also was sidelined for extended periods with mononucleosis and knee and ankle injuries, and he suffered a broken hand during bowl practices in December.
Long ends his college career having appeared in 15 games without a start.
Long emerged from spring practice No. 1 at right guard, with starter Chris Burnette sidelined while recovering from shoulder surgery. But Long’s eligibility issue arose over the summer.
Burnette is scheduled to start at right guard, but Georgia continues to handle his recovery cautiously. He has missed about half of the Bulldogs’ preseason practices and all of their scrimmages. How much he’ll be able to play in the season opener against Clemson on Aug. 31 remains in question.
“I talked to him out there today and told him he’s got to practice and he’s got to push himself, and he knows it,” Bobo said of Burnette. “That’s what we’re working for, is for him to play an entire game. But we’ve got some depth on the OL, so if we need to spell him we can.”
Georgia has used three players at right guard in Burnette’s absence — Kolton Houston, John Theus and Watts Dantzler. All three have gotten snaps with the No. 1 offense in camp.
Long’s brother, Hunter Long, is a sophomore offensive lineman for the Bulldogs.