Georgia finally has the depth it needs at offensive line. The Bulldogs return four of the five guys from last year’s lineup. Not to mention it has some of the most talented prospects coming in to compete. We take a look at Georgia’s big men in the trenches for this spring preview.
Last year, the offensive line was one of the major question marks for head coach Kirby Smarts team. The line was young and inexperienced besides Lamont Gaillard at center and Isaiah Wynn at the tackle spot. That left three spots open on the line. Offensive line coach Sam Pittman had plenty of talent to choose from and had to decide who fits where. Throughout spring practice and fall, Andrew Thomas stood out and earned the right-tackle spot.
Before the Bulldogs had the line that took them to a national championship, they had to make sure to land some big targets in the 2017 recruiting class. Georgia’s plan to produce a bigger and deeper line continued right on track with additions of Isaiah Wilson, Andrew Thomas, Netori Johnson, D’Marcus Hayes, and Justin Shaffer.
Another concern was the amount of depth at the position. With the five 2017 offensive line signees, it gave Georgia just enough depth to get through the 2017 season. Despite Thomas being the only contributor out of the 2017 class, the other four got to have a year under their belts and develop some more. Thomas earned his spot by the end of spring and started all 15 games. He fought through growing pains during the season but improved throughout the entire season.
New Season, New Line:
Georgia lost just one starter on the offensive line. Isaiah Wynn the longtime starter leaves the left tackle spot open. Thomas should be the guy that moves to Wynns spot and Gaillard stays at center. However, one of the biggest questions is whether guys like Kendall Baker and Ben Cleveland keep their spots. Or will young guys like Wilson, Johnson or even the 2018 guys come in and take some of the veterans spots.
Let the Competition Begin:
Lamont Gaillard took over the starting center spot last season and did well. He started all 15 games last year and should continue to start until he graduates. Jake Fromm and he have this bond that is special between a quarterback and their center. They clash together well and trust each other. There shouldn’t be much competition here for Gaillard as the spring season continues.
A name to remember for the future is Warren Ericson. He’s an early enrollee for the 2018 class and due to Sean Fogarty hurting his knee is the second string center. One of the reasons Ericson came to Georgia is to be the next center. He has the built and size for the position along with the mental capabilities. Fogarty hurt his knee during the offseason, and it isn’t known if he will be able to go this season or not. Gaillard should stay at the No. 1 spot for Georgia and Ericson should solidify his case for the No. 2 spot.
Left and Right Tackle:
Thomas appears to have secured the left tackle spot this spring. He’s been there since day one of spring practice. The left tackle spot appears to be set in stone. However, the right tackle spot appears to be wide open and full of competition. The top guys in line for the spot are Isaiah Wilson, Kendall Baker, D’Marcus Hayes, Owen Condon and Cade Mays. Georgia has plenty of depth at this position finally and can begin to build second and third rotations for it.
Mays is a 2018 early enrollee that is just as big as Wilson. However, Wilson has a full year under his belt and had plenty of time to learn the playbook and what he needs to do to win that spot. As for Baker and Hayes, they’ve been here before and know just how competitive it is. Baker should take on a role that Dyshon Sims did last season and will probably be ready to go at any of the five spots. Pittman moved him all over the line so far this spring and should continue to do so until he’s comfortable at all five spots. Bakers worked at second-team left tackle, first-string right tackle and first-string left guard. Hayes appears to be a depth builder at this spot and continues to learn the Georgia way, he could contribute some this season.
Left and Right Guards:
If there was an area where the most competition should happen at on the offensive line it’s the two guard spots. Georgia has an abundance of guards on the roster with more coming this summer. Baker, Solomon Kindley, Ben Cleveland, Patt Allen, Trey Hill, Netori Johnson, and Jamaree Salyer are names to keep an eye out for in regards to the guards.
Kindley, Cleveland, and Baker all contributed last season. Cleveland should have a breakout season and assert his dominance at the right guard spot. However, Kindley competes hard and could knock off Cleveland. As for Baker, he started all 15 games at left guard and should keep his spot too. Despite these guys having experience at guard, the young guys who redshirted last season and who come in now are some of the most talented guards Georgia’s ever recruited. Hill, Johnson, and Salyer all come in with the ability to make moves this season. Salyer is the sole guard from the 2018 class that didn’t enroll early. He may be behind when he first gets on campus, but coming from the same high school as Thomas It wouldn’t be surprising for him to come in and compete early.
What to expect for 2018
Georgia finally has the depth it needs. Smart and Pittman continue to build and grow this line but with the amount of talent on it, the hopes of having two to three full rotations could finally happen. Some of the incoming freshmen have the ability to come in and rattle the rotation. While some of the veterans aim to keep their spots. The starting lineup for Georgia should stay fluid throughout spring but expect the staff to have the starting five early on in fall camp.