As of Thursday, the battle between Georgia offensive lineman Kolton Houston and the NCAA is over. Houston’s return to Georgia’s offensive line is long overdue—three years overdue, to be exact. In 2010, Houston failed a random drug test conducted by the NCAA, and his supposed steroid use forced the NCAA to declare him ineligible. The test showed the presence of an anabolic steroid known as 19- norandrosterone; however, the reason for why the steroid remained in his system was contested by Houston and Georgia.
Before he started at Georgia as a freshman, Houston underwent shoulder surgery, during his junior year in high school, which was followed by a steroid injection (needed for medical reasons). Doctors, however, did not inject the steroid into the muscle tissue but, instead, injected the steroid into fatty tissue. This injection prevented the steroid from leaving Houston’s system at a quicker rate. For over three years, efforts by the Bulldogs’ staff, including director of sports medicine Ron Courson, worked to rid Houston of the steroid. The entire debacle received national attention, with fans even starting a petition to show support for the offensive lineman—a petition that gained more than 3,000 signatures. Finally, after years of trial-and-error and an appeal to the NCAA, Houston finally passed the test and can now play for the Bulldogs this upcoming season.
The call bearing the good news came on Houston’s 22nd birthday, leading him to declare the good news “the best birthday present I’ve ever had.” It has yet to be determined whether he will apply for a third year of eligibility, considering he currently has only two years of remaining eligibility. Right now, Houston is happy to have the controversy behind him, and head coach Mark Richt is happy as well. Richt went to twitter when the news was released, saying “it’s an awesome day for Kolton Houston and for Georgia!”
What does Houston’s return mean?
For right now, Houston’s contributions to the team have yet to be decided. If Houston had played in the 2012 season, he most likely would have worked as starting right tackle, since he served in that position during Georgia’s 2012 spring practice. With the Bulldogs building a strong OL during this year’s off- season, Houston will face another battle to regain the starting position.
Xzavier Ward and John Theus look to be Houston’s biggest competition in his quest to make up for the past three years. After Ward, Theus is the No. 2 right tackle; however, Theus’ position could change slightly. He worked as both a right and left tackle in spring practice, once he returned from surgery. Listing Theus as the No. 2 right tackle could be an indication that he will play this upcoming season as left tackle. Last season, as a freshman, Theus, who started all 14 games, came out strong, making the Freshman All-America Team. This season, Ward will provide additional support to the Bulldogs’ OL. Ward, a redshirt sophomore, dealt with a high school injury that affected him from seeing any real playing time, but his performance in spring practice showed his improvement. In a press conference on Wednesday, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo indicated there would be much competition for OL positions this season, saying “nobody is guaranteed playing time based on last year. Last year is last year.”
Houston is no stranger to battling for play time, considering he fought the last three years for eligibility. With the competition increasing as the start of the season draws closer, Georgia’s offensive coaches have many decisions to make. For now, however, they will celebrate Houston’s return.