Against Missouri, Georgia’s offensive line suffered a few key injuries that made some Georgia fans nervous heading into Saturday’s top 15 matchup against Auburn.
Center Trey Hill went down in the game with an ankle injury, and right guard Cade Mays moved to Hill’s position completing his rotation of having played all five positions on the offensive line this season. Mays was replaced at right guard by Ben Cleveland. In Mays’ absence, Jamaree Salyer took over at center. And at some point, Isaiah Wilson went down with a minor injury.
Heading into the Auburn game, Monday head coach Kirby Smart assured the media that every player that suffered an injury on the offensive line should be able to play Saturday. He noted that Hill was cleared to practice, and also mentioned that Mays and Wilson returned to action after suffering minor injuries.
One of the biggest matchups going into Saturday’s game is Georgia’s offensive line versus Auburn’s defensive line. Many experts regard the Tigers’ defensive line to be the best in the conference, and it starts with senior Derrick Brown.
“Derrick is an extremely good athlete,” Smart said at his Monday afternoon press conference. “I mean, first of all, when you put athleticism in a person’s body that is that size, I mean, he was a great basketball player. He’s a great athlete. You can see him when he gets up — he has ball skills. He gets interceptions. He gets fumbles. He’s around the ball, and he’s explosive. You got that kind of twitch and you’re as big as he is, it’s hard to block, and he’s been a very disruptive player in this league for a long time.”
So far this season, Brown has been able to record 4.0 sacks, 7.5 TFL, and force two fumbles while being the leader of the Tigers’ defense. He will be the best player Georgia’s offensive line has gone up against this season. The Sugar Hill, GA prospect is a towering 6-foot-5, 315-pound beast that has wreaked havoc in opponents’ backfield this season, and if Georgia wants to win, they will have to contain him.
Georgia has enough talent on their offensive line to maintain this beast, but the question is if they can do it. Sam Pittman‘s unit has proven this season that they have what it takes. Against Florida, Georgia’s offensive line didn’t allow a single sack, and they contained players like Jabari Zuniga and Jonathan Greenard. They have one of the deepest units in the country and it has shown this season.
Besides Mays, Cleveland, Wilson, and Salyer, Georgia has arguably the best left tackle in the country, Andrew Thomas. Solomon Kindley has proven to be a consistent player as well. As mentioned earlier, Mays has played and practiced at every position this season. Smart said earlier in the season that he likes his big guys to be versatile, and not just be limited to one position. On Monday, the SEC announced that Ben Cleveland was the Offensive Lineman of the Week.
Last year against Auburn, Georgia’s offense was able to run for 303 yards. D’Andre Swift led the way with 186 yards on 17 attempts and a touchdown. Georgia’s running backs averaged 6.6 yards a carry last year in the 27=10 over the Tigers.
Georgia will not only have to block Brown but talented guys like Tyrone Trues and Marlon Davidson. Cade Mays knows how talented their defensive line is, but gave credit to Brown.
“[Brown] is definitely a great player but no matter who’s lined up across me, I just try to focus on my technique in my mind and try to get it done,” Mays said.
With that being said, it looks Georgia’s ‘big uglies’ remain confident but will continue to prepare for the Tigers’ combat attack throughout this week at practice.