As greater Bengaldom saunters boldly forth into another season, one can’t help but notice the amount of unforeseen changes and adaptations to the roster and resulting starters that have occurred over the past four weeks. Like most NFL teams throughout the preseason, injuries have certainly taken their toll, and when compared to some teams, the Queen City should count herself lucky to only be nursing a handful of recoverable ailments. However, the turnover of immediate protection around quarterback Andy Dalton is one of the more striking. Plenty of talk has been made about rookie first-round guard Kevin Zeitler, but a quiet din has settled over the new starters 2nd year player Clint Boling and 9 season veteran Jeff Faine. It would seem that many are holding their breath to see how both fair against an aggressive Baltimore Ravens Defensive, but in the meantime, take a look at the upside to both of these names.
A four-year player and graduate of the University of Georgia with a degree in Risk Management and Insurance, Boling logged 49 starts, the last 38 coming consecutively, which was good enough for second best in school history among non-kickers. Named the team’s offensive captain as a senior, Boling was a top prospect due to his leadership and his durability but wasn’t considered one of the elite guards in the 2011 NFL Draft. This was largely because Boling wasn’t a pure guard while at Georgia; he was primarily utilized at both left and right tackle. Nonetheless, as a senior, Boling was named to the All-SEC First Team in the coach’s poll and All-SEC Second Team by the Associated Press, just as he had in 2009. Also, Boling earned the Leon Farmer Award in 2010, a decoration specific to the UGA tradition, given to a single player whose dedication through strength and conditioning manifests itself in the most significant manner on the playing field, and he was also named to UGA’s Team of the Decade. Lastly, Boling was named as a starter in the 2010 Senior Bowl, where he first came into contact with Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Boling was drafted 101st overall in the 4th round of the 2011 NFL Draft, behind fellow Georgia Bulldog AJ Green. As a Bengal, Boling was reunited with former teammate Geno Atkins and was introduced to fellow Georgia Alumni Robert Geathers. Acknowledged largely as potential in 2011, the Bengals need to look for replacement guards to the inconsistent Nate Livings and aging Bobbie Williams took a back seat to their need for a new quarterback / wide receiver tandem. Drafted at age 21, most people expected Boling to require a few years before he’d mature and be ready to assume the starting role, but after only a year Boling was already starting to impress coaches this off-season with his improvements, quickness and transition. If it hadn’t have been the for the high-profile acquiring of Travelle Wharton during Free Agency, Boling may have been a legitimate front runner for the job outright. Regardless, with Wharton on the IR, Boling has got his chance to show if he’s ready now to be a mainstay on the Bengals offensive line.