We take a look at Georgia’s big men in the trenches in this segment of the 2017 UGA Spring Football Preview. The players whose task it is to protect the quarterback and open up holes for the running backs to run through. The offensive line.
LOOKING BACK BEFORE LOOKING AHEAD
Last year, headed into the 2016 college football season, there were a number of questions for first year Head Coach Kirby Smart and his staff. One of the bigger questions was regarding the Bulldogs’ offensive line. For Offensive Line Coach Sam Pittman, he had to look to replace two offensive tackles and put together a cohesive group of five guys.
One of the constants in Kirby Smart’s press conference from the day he was hired as the Georgia football program’s new man in charge was that the Bulldogs needed to bigger and deeper in the trenches and especially on the offensive line. To that effect, recruiting ‘bigger-and-badder’ hog mollies’ became a priority for the Georgia staff. The biggest need was at offensive tackle, as Coaches Pittman and Smart were looking to replace starters Kolton Houston and John Theus.
That led to bringing in graduate transfer Tyler Catalina from Rhode Island to compete. Catalina not only competed, but he won the start, and although many Bulldog fans had mixed feelings about his one season with Georgia, I would shutter to think what might have been had he not been there. While there were times he certainly struggled, he did his best and what the coaches asked of him. In my book, that makes him a DGD and earns a big ‘thank you’ from me.
NEW SEASON, SAME QUESTION MARKS
Georgia’s spring practice will be upon us in a couple of weeks as the Bulldogs’ are slated to start on March 21st, and wouldn’t you know but it seems like there are the same question marks going into 2017 as there were last year. In fact, there might be even bigger question marks about this year’s offensive line. Sam Pittman again will be tasked with replacing both starting offensive tackles. Last year’s starting tackles Tyler Catalina and Greg Pyke are gone, and there is not a ton of experience or bodies behind them. Plus, Pittman will be looking to replace Georgia’s starting center for the last two years, Brandon Kublanow, and whoever does will be an offensive lineman who has not taken a snap at center in a college game.
Who does Sam Pittman have to work with this spring? Whose back from last year’s squad?
Name | Number | Class | Height and Weight | Hometown
Pat Allen – No. 58, RS SO | 6 foot 4, and 298 lbs | Reisterstown, MD
Kendall Baker – No. 65, RS JR | 6 foot 6, and 305 lbs | Atlanta, GA
Chris Barnes – No. 61, RS FR | 6 foot 3, and 301 lbs | Leesburg, GA
Aulden Bynum – No. 70, SR | 6 foot 5, and 302 lbs | Valdosta, GA
Ben Cleveland – No. 74, RS FR | 6 foot 6, and 341 lbs, Toccoa, GA
Lamont Gaillard, No. 53, RS JR, 6 foot 2, and 301 lbs | Fayetteville, NC
Sage Hardin – No. 63, RS SO | 6 foot 6, and 290 lbs | Atlanta, GA
Solomon Kindley – No. 66, RS FR | 6 foot 4, and 341 lbs | Jacksonville, FL
Sam Madden – No. 67, RS SO | 6 foot 6, and 334 lbs | Barnegat, NJ
Dyshon Sims – No. 55, SR | 6 foot 4, and 309 lbs | Valdosta, GA
Isaiah Wynn – No. 77, SR | 6 foot 2, and 305 lbs | St. Petersburg, FL
The Walk-ons (WO) and Preferred Walk-ons (PWO)
Name | Number | Position | Class | Height and Weight | Hometown
Sean Fogarty (PWO) – No. 68, OL, RS JR | 6 foot 4, and 303 lbs | Savannah ,GA
Daniel Gothard (PWO) – No. 71, RS FR, OL | 6 foot 6, and 327 lbs | Dunwoody, GA
Koby Pyrz (WO) – No. 49, SN, RS FR | 6 foot 2, and 282 lbs | Cairo, GA
Thomas Swilley (WO) – No. 75, OG, SR | 6 foot 3, and 318 lbs | Athens, GA
Allen Williams (PWO) – No. 79, OL, RS FR | 6 foot 7, and 335 lbs | Baxley, GA
Of the returning offensive linemen, senior Isaiah Wynn is the most experienced, having played in 37 games, starting 25 of the last 26 of those for the Bulldogs, rotating between OT and OG. Dyshon Sims is the next most seasoned. He has played in 29 games and started three at OG over the past three seasons with Georgia. Entering his fifth year with Georgia, Aulden Bynum has been a ‘Swiss Army knife’ for the Bulldogs in the trenches. He has played at offensive tackle and also switched to tight end for a period of time playing in 17 games, starting 3 of them. Sims and Bynum have more games under their belt, but Gaillard has more starts. He played in and started all 13 games for Georgia last season as a redshirt sophomore at right guard.
After Wynn, Sims, Gaillard, and Bynum, the Bulldogs get very young and inexperienced. Kendall Baker will be entering into his redshirt junior season for 2017 and has played in 5 games the last two seasons. Pat Allen played in just two games as a redshirt freshman last year, versus Louisiana-Lafayette and in the Liberty Bowl against TCU. Walk-on senior OG Thomas Swilley along with redshirt sophomore Sage Hardin have mainly contributed on the scout team but did see some action against Louisiana-Lafayette. Solomon Kindley appeared in one game, versus Missouri but there is good news here. He was granted a redshirt by the NCAA.
Sam Madden has spent the last two seasons on Georgia’s scout team and look for two freshman who were redshirted, 2016 signees Chris Barnes and Ben Cleveland, to continue developing and competing.
LET THE COMPETITION BEGIN
Lamont Gaillard looks to move from guard to center and is expected to be the favorite to vie for the start. He has not taken a start at center, but he has worked at the position before, competing with Brandon Kublanow last spring. Looking to compete against Gaillard will be redshirt freshman Chris Barnes along with redshirt junior Sean Fogarty. Who is Fogarty? He was a transfer from Savannah State last season who has good size at 6 foot 4 and a healthy 308 lbs to go along with some athleticism. Dyshon Sims could also get a look, but I expect Gaillard to come out of spring as the number 1 center. Don’t be surprised if Fogarty is the No. 2 guy.
Left and Right Tackle
The top five candidates for the left and right offensive tackles spots headed into spring will be Isaiah Wynn, Kendall Baker, Aulden Bynum, Dyshon Sims and 2017 JUCO transfer and early enrollee D’Marcus Hayes. The Bulldogs are still thin at the offensive tackle position until the freshmen get on campus. That is what makes the pick-up of the JUCO transfer D’Marcus Hayes so big. Wynn brings the most experience followed by Bynum, but if D’Marcus Hayes can come in, get in shape and get down the playbook, he’ll vie for the No. 1 spot at RT. If not, a wild card for RT could be Dyshon Sims. Wynn likely will be the guy at the LT spot coming out of spring, but whether or not he holds onto to start the season will be a question going into fall camp.
Left and Right Guards
If Lamont Gaillard does move over to center, and with struggles at left guard last season, look for this to be a wide open competition just as with center and the tackle spots. Dyshon Sims, Solomon Kindley, Ben Cleveland, Pat Allen along with Sean Fogarty, Daniel Gothard, Sage Hardin and Sam Madden are all going to get a look at the guard spots. As big and strong as Ben Cleveland is, I just don’t see him being ready yet. Can the light click on for Pat Allen, Sage Hardin or Sam Madden, especially Allen? I think the two guys that will likely come out of spring ahead of everyone will be Solomon Kindley at RG and Dyshon Sims at LG, depending on whether or not he is considered the best RT coming out of spring, but Fogarty is again, a player to look out for making some noise. Which brings me to a point I want to make.
Sam Pittman and Kirby Smart are not just looking for just five starters at LT, LG, C, RG, and RT, but they are looking for the top 7 to 8 offensive linemen. Why? Over the last two seasons, Georgia has had to rely on mainly 5 players and hold their collective breath that no one went down with an injury. There was just not a lot of depth behind the starting five. Headed into spring, it is similar. Behind three or four guys with experience, there is just a ton of youth. As well as getting bigger up front and adding more offensive tackles to the line, Coaches Pittman and Smart also want to develop depth here.
Who could emerge as that number 6, 7, or 8 player on the offensive line? Fogarty is a guy that could end up being in the top-6 and be a lineman that Pittman can rotate at center and either of the offensive guard spots, and Dyshon Sims is another guy like Fogarty who is going to get a look a center and guard as well as tackle. If Sims doesn’t start, the senior could be in that top 8 group. But the Bulldogs really need a couple of the redshirt sophomores to step up here. Players like Allen, Hardin, and Madden. If not, then Pittman may have to rely on some of the incoming freshmen from the 2017 recruiting class. That is not ideal, but it is the shape of Georgia’s offensive line depth currently. Speaking of which, let’s take a look at those new signees.
MEET THE NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
What we won’t get to see this spring are many of the signees from Georgia’s 2017 recruiting class. The Bulldogs signed six scholarship offensive linemen, and with the exception of the before mentioned JUCO transfer D’Marcus Hayes, who is an early enrollee, they will not get on campus until summer. What will quickly jump out at you as you read through the list of the newcomers is their sheer size in both height and weight.
UGA’s 2017 Offensive Line Signees
Name | Class | Height and Weight | High School and Hometown
D’Marcus Hayes (EE) | JR transfer | 6 foot 5.5, and 321 lbs | Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C., Perkinston, MS
D’Antne Demery | Incoming FR | 6 foot 6, and 319 lbs | Brunswick High School, Brunswick, GA
Netori Johnson | Incoming FR | 6 foot 3.25, and 341 lbs | Cedar Grove High School, Ellenwood, GA
Justin Shaffer | Incoming FR | 6 foot 4, and 356 lbs | Cedar Grove High School, Ellenwood, GA
Andrew Thomas | Incoming FR | 6 foot 5 and 338 lbs | Pace Academy, Lithonia, GA
Isaiah Wilson | Incoming FR | 6 foot 7, and 354 lbs | Poly Prep Country Day School, Brooklyn, NY
UGA’s 2017 O-Line Walk-ons (WO) and Preferred Walk-ons (PWO)
Name | Class | Height and Weight | High School and Hometown
Shahed Noorollahi (EE) | JR transfer | 6 foot 2, and 310 lbs | Georgia Gwinnett College, Perkinston, MS
Looking ahead, past spring and towards fall, a lot of eyes will be on the highly touted and very big Isaiah Wilson. Can he come in and push for a start at one of the offensive tackle spots as a true freshman? The other freshman that could play early is Netori Johnson at offensive guard. He is very athletic for his size but needs to control his weight and get in condition for SEC play. I look for both Johnson and Wilson to potentially end up being in Coach Pittman’s group of top-8 offensive linemen; if not at the start of the season, towards the latter half of it.
And what about D’Antne Demery, Justin Shaffer, and Andrew Thomas? All three guys are very talented, but barring injuries to other linemen, I expect them to redshirt. All three could figure as redshirt freshmen in 2018 as Pittman and Smart continue the process of building Georgia’s offensive line depth. Andrew Thomas is a future starter at offensive tackle. He may very well take over at RT in 2019 and Wilson move over to LT. Demery is the sleeper of this group IMO. He needs a couple of years but is very talented. Shaffer could play at OG with teammate Neotri Johnson down the road. This 2017 crop of offensive linemen will be a key centerpiece for Pittman and Smart and Georgia’s future offensive line.
PROJECTED SPRING DEPTH CHART
Here is my projected depth chart for the offensive line coming out of spring, but I expect it to shake up some once those five incoming 2017 freshman get on campus and start competing, especially if none of the redshirt sophomores step up or if there are any injuries.
RIGHT TACKLE: 1. D’Marcus Hayes | 2. Aulden Bynum
RIGHT GUARD: 1. Solomon Kindley | 2. Pat Allen
CENTER: 1. Lamont Gaillard | 2. Sean Fogarty
LEFT GUARD: 1. Dyson Sims | 2. Sean Fogarty
LEFT TACKLE: 1. Isaiah Wynn | 2. Kendall Baker
Catch up on the other position groups in the 2017 UGA Football Spring Preview series from Bulldawg Illustrated:
2017 UGA Football Spring Preview: Defensive Backs – CLICK HERE
2017 UGA Football Spring Preview: Defensive Line – CLICK HERE
2017 UGA Football Spring Preview: Linebackers – CLICK HERE
2017 UGA Football Spring Preview: Quarterbacks – CLICK HERE
2017 UGA Football Spring Preview: Running Backs – CLICK HERE
2017 UGA Football Spring Preview: Special Teams – CLICK HERE
2017 UGA Football Spring Preview: Tight Ends – CLICK HERE
2017 UGA Football Spring Preview: Wide Receivers – CLICK HERE
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