The biggest subject for head coach Kirby Smart during his press conference on Tuesday was about the offensive line. Journalists wanted to know about the lineups, who will play, and the status of one key senior o-lineman. Smart said a lot about the young line and seemed excited about the unit.
He opened the press conference up with the status of left-tackle, Isaiah Wynn and why he hasn’t been at practice the past two days. Smart explained that Wynn had an undisclosed sickness and needed to take a couple days to rest. After he finished his opening statement, the first question was about the line and how not having Wynn affects the overall scheme of things. Smart answered that it may be a blessing in disguise because it forced them to move guys around.
‘’It’s great because the one guy who we know what he can do is him, of everybody,” Smart said. “I think with him out, it allows us to move guys around and we did that throughout practice. We’ve had those guys moving around. Andrew (Thomas) has played left tackle, right tackle, left guard. He’s played a little bit of everything. Isaiah Wilson has mainly been on the right side. Ben (Cleveland) has been on the right side. We’ve been able to flip-flop some guards, Kendall Baker and Solomon (Kindley) have continued to play both sides. Justin Shaffer has played inside, Netori (Johnson) has played inside. We’ve really moved guys a lot, more than we probably wanted to in the past two days, with Isaiah’s situation.’’
The media inquired about sophomore Ben Cleveland and his progress from last season to now. The former five-star offensive tackle didn’t play last season and has been seen taking reps on the right side of the line.
“It says that he’s the right tackle as of today, Practice eight,” Smart proclaimed. “That’s all it says. He’s got to continue to get better. We expect more from him. We’re searching for a right tackle. You know, Dyshon(Sims) was probably playing better than him, but Ben has a lot of potential. He’s got great size. So Does Isaiah Wilson. But neither one is playing up to the standards of what we expect right now, so we’ve got to keep growing in all those areas.”
After Smart explained Cleveland’s progress, the next question was about how the coaching staff makes personnel decisions on the offensive line. He explained that who the staff decides to play are critical decisions and one that gets looked at on a weekly basis.
“I think it’s a critical decision. We’ve always said that we want to play the guys that give us the best opportunity to win,” Smart stated. “In Game 1, that may not be the same as Game 2, 3, 4, or 5. So when we make those decisions, we make them based on who’s going to be the best guy down the road. It doesn’t mean that the guy might start, very similar to Jacob (Eason) and Greyson (Lambert) last year. We’re trying to decide who’s going to be the best guy down the road, but it doesn’t mean that guy is going to start right away. It just means that guy is going to be ready to play and he’s going to be developed. Let’s say we keep up 12 linemen working with the Ones and Twos. Once we start really rolling, getting ready for our game prep, those guys have got to be interchangeable parts, and those reps they get in practice are really valuable so that we’re giving the most reps to the guys we think have the best future to help us. But they may or may not play in the first part of a drive. We’re just going to have to wait and see. It’s so early right now. It’s too early to tell on the offensive line. We haven’t even scrimmaged yet. After the first scrimmage, we’ll know a lot more.”
The final question about the offensive line was about true freshman Andrew Thomas. Smart elaborated, but quickly said he’s not quite ready yet.
‘’He’s not ready to help out right now,” Smart said. “He’s an extremely mature kid. He studies hard. He’s very serious, very businesslike, and he’s got a great approach to the game. But we don’t have a guy ready right now. We’re at Practice 8. It’s hard to say that we have the older linemen exactly ready. I mean, the five guys that started out there because they had 15 practices in the spring, they’re still ahead of those other guys. But some of those other guys are catching up quick. I would definitely say that Andrew is a guy that’s catching up quick because he has the athletic ability to play multiple positions in the inside and outside. We think he’s a future left tackle, but we have to play our best players and if that means he’s there, and he’s got a little bit more size than Isaiah Wynn. Isaiah played some guard last year and we didn’t get a whole lot of movement, so Isaiah did a really good job at tackle. I feel like Andrew can help us out at guard, but Andrew has got to be a left tackle as well. He may even have to be the right tackle, so he’s a guy that’s going to be a moving part, as well as (Justin) Shaffer, as well as Pat (Allen), as well as a couple of other guys…(Aulden) Bynum and Ben (Cleveland). We’ve just got to get better all across the board. And hey, they’re going against a good defensive front, too, so those guys are playing hard.’’
For the entire press conference, watch below:
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