The situation was unenviable for any rookie, but the unfortunate reality for Clint Boling last year. To open the 2011 season, he was the starter at right guard for the Bengals.

A fourth-round pick known more for his versatility at Georgia needed to hold his own protecting a rookie quarterback only one month after cracking his first NFL playbook. Three games in, he looked like what he was: A 22-year-old rookie attempting to play against grown men.

He stood too tall and was overmatched at times. After three games, the Bengals decided to give Mike McGlynn the fourth start in the absence of veteran Bobbie Williams, who was serving a four-game suspension. McGlynn joined the team off waivers three weeks prior.

Boling wasn't ready. With three weeks left in the season, Williams went on IR with an injury but McGlynn again stepped in with Boling on the bench.

Even further, the Bengals spent their first move of the offseason adding Travelle Wharton at left guard and then drafted Kevin Zeitler in the first round at right guard to solidify the position.

Yet, following a likely season-ending injury to Wharton, here comes Boling again. He's again the incumbent starter and in a situation less daunting and overwhelming, he believes he's now ready. The Bengals sure hope he's right.

“Obviously, last year I didn't play the way that I would have liked to,” said Boling, who made 49 starts at three different offensive line positions at Georgia. “I would have liked to keep starting but I didn't do a good enough job and I didn't earn a spot. Obviously it was a big learning experience for me and I know a lot of what to expect this year and I feel that's definitely going to prepare me.”

The journey from rookie to ready began with an offseason training routine specifically geared toward fixing his weakness. Boling needed more flexibility if he was going to bend his 6-foot-5 frame low enough to move defensive tackles inside. He's come back much improved in that area and after the first three weeks of camp he's made believers of those around him.

“Clint has had a great camp,” offensive line coach Paul Alexander said. “He worked hard on his flexibility and on some things in the offseason. Obviously he is way ahead of where he was a year ago and he’ll do fine. He’s smart, competitive, he’ll be a good player.”

Cincinnati needs him to be or else another free agent or in-house candidate will be needed to fill last year's top offensive problem spot.

With a new year and new perspective, Boling believes none of what transpired last year will repeat itself.

“With it being my first year last year and just being more familiar with the offense, the techniques Paul is coaching and things like that,” Boling said, “I feel like its a combination of things of how much better I feel this year.”

Follow Paul Dehner Jr. for Bengals updates from training camp on Twitter at @CBSSportsNFLCIN.