SAM PITTMAN’S O-LINE LOOKS TO BE THE COUNTRY’S BEST

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SAM PITTMAN’S O-LINE LOOKS TO BE THE COUNTRY’S BEST

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With the recent news that 2020 four-star offensive lineman Tate Ratledge committed to Georgia, it is the perfect time to talk about the amazing results that Sam Pittman has achieved on the recruiting trail since his arrival from Arkansas. To say that Pittman has transformed the Bulldogs’ front five is a gross understatement. In fact, he has built what many believe is the best offensive line in the country, and there is no end in sight. In fact, the 2020 recruiting class already includes the aforementioned Ratledge along with Broderick Jones (5-Star) and Akinola Ogunbiyl (4-Star). Many analysts believe the Dawgs will sign five offensive linemen in 2020, so there is more to come.

Pittman and Kirby Smart are a perfect pair. If it is correct to say that the underlying principle of Kirby Smart’s offensive philosophy is to run the ball and wear down opposing defenses, he picked the right gentleman to make it work.

Pittman has proven to be an incredible recruiter of the top offensive line talent in the country, but he has also shown himself to be just as good as a talent evaluator. After all, no program is going to get all of the big-time talent, even though Pittman is making a good run at it. One example of a diamond-in-the-rough type player recruited by Pittman is Solomon Kindley. Kindley was an athletic but overweight three-star recruit from Raines High in Jacksonville. Many observers wondered if Kindley would ever get into good enough condition to meaningfully contribute in the SEC, but Pitmann was convinced and offered. When I saw Kindley dunk a basketball at Camp Sunshine the summer he arrived in Athens (he probably weighed 375 at the time), I knew Pittman had made the right call – again.

Another Georgia recruiter has to be looking at Pittman’s work and smiling from ear-to-ear – running backs coach Del McGee. When a running back recruiter can point out Georgia history of excellence at the position and the potential of running behind Pittman’s Wall, his job becomes a lot easier.
Let’s take a look at Georgia offensive line depth chart:

Trey Hill, Solomon Kindley and Andrew Thomas - G-Day 2019
Trey Hill, Solomon Kindley and Andrew Thomas – G-Day 2019

Left Tackle:
Andrew Thomas is a lock to start as the protector of Jake Fromm’s blindside. Thomas, entering his junior campaign, is on everyone’s NFL draft list and is expected to declare after the 2019 season.
Cade Mays appears to be Thomas’ backup. Mays is also in the mix for the starting nod at right guard, but look for him to be the primary backup for Thomas. Coach Pittman believes in cross-training rather than a strict position fix for his linemen, so the second string tackle might be the first string guard. Redshirt freshman Owen Condon and redshirt senior D’Marcus Hayes will vie for late-game duty.

Left Guard:
Solomon Kindley will likely be the starter at left guard but he will be pushed by Justin Shaffer (junior) and Jamaree Salyer (sophomore). Freshman Clay Webb has gotten plenty of reps at guard and is going to be solid for the Dawgs. Webb needs to gain weight, but if he checks in at fall camp at 300 pounds (or more), he gets playing time early.

Center:
Tray Hill (sophomore) is a lock to begin camp as the starting center and I don’t see him losing that job. Warren Erickson (redshirt sophomore) and Jamaree Salyer will push for playing time at center along with Clay Webb. After watching Webb for a couple of years, I see center as his natural position. He is a lineman to watch as he grows physically and learns the system.

Ben Cleveland
Ben Cleveland

Right Guard:
Ben Cleveland is every Georgia fan’s favorite lineman. After returning from a broken bone in his leg during last season, Cleveland reasserted himself during spring drills and appears ready to reestablish himself as the starter at right guard. Cleveland had better be ready because he’ll have Cade Mays and Jamaree Salyer nipping at his heels.

Right Tackle:
Redshirt sophomore Isaiah Wilson has the right tackle position on lockdown almost to the same extent as his opposite number, Andrew Thomas. Wilson is another of Pittman’s charges consistently mentioned as high draft picks in 2020. Cade Mays may be the next man up here but watch for Jamaree Slayer and freshman early enrollee Warren McClendon to vie for playing time.

Quality depth is the secret to winning championships in modern college football. If there is one position group that is poised to lead UGA back to the playoffs, it is the offensive line.

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Greg is closing in on 11 years writing about and photographing UGA sports. While often wrong and/or out of focus, it has been a long, strange trip full of fun and new friends.