The Myth of UGA Lacking Horsepower at Line of Scrimmage

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The Myth of UGA Lacking Horsepower at Line of Scrimmage

Freshman Michail Carter followed by freshman David Marshall
Freshman Michail Carter followed by freshman David Marshall
Photo: Greg Poole/Bulldawg Illustrated
If you read the season preview magazines and/or listen to the Paul Finebaum show, one continuous narrative that repeats often is that UGA is lacking depth and talent on both lines of scrimmage.  As one guest on Finebaum pointed out to Tony Barnhardt who was hosting the show Tuesday afternoon, “UGA lacks horsepower on the offensive and defensive lines”.  Barnhardt agreed.  I don’t:

On both the offensive line and defensive line the Bulldogs don’t lack horsepower, they lack household names.  If you only glimpse at the Bulldogs depth chart, you would see that UGA lost their two starting offensive tackles and four senior defensive linemen from last season.  I would argue that while UGA certainly lost experience, this season they will put more talent on the field. 

First, let’s delve into the offensive line.  Last season, the Bulldogs started seniors John Theus at LT and Kolton Houston at RT.  Theus could not keep his job and was replaced by Isaiah Wynn after the Florida game who remained as the Bulldogs starting LT for the remainder of the season.  During Wynn’s time at LT he faced the likes of Carl Lawson and Carl Nassib and more than held his own.  Houston lost his job at RT where he was replaced by Theus after the Florida game.  I would argue that Houston was one of the poorest RT’s in the SEC.  I believe that any combination of Isaiah Wynn, Greg Pyke and/or Tyler Catalina is an upgrade on the offensive tackle play from last season.  In addition to the two new tackles, this will be Brandon Kublanow’s second season as the starting center.  He was solid last season but his comfort level will be higher this season and his on field performance should be better as well.  As far as the guard positons are concerned, I am very optimistic about Lamont Galliard who played well in the spring and has a tremendous amount of raw ability.  Also, guard Dyshon Sims appears to have put on some very good weight this offseason and Ben Cleveland is going to be difficult to keep off the field because of his raw power. 

However, none of those are the biggest upgrade for the offensive line.  The biggest upgrade comes at the coaching position where the Bulldogs have made a tremendous upgrade with the acquisition of Sam Pittman.  There is a reason why he is widely recognized as one of the best offensive line coaches in the country.  He will elevate the play of each and every offensive lineman in a Bulldog uniform. 

On the defensive line the Bulldogs are replacing Sterling Bailey, Chris Mayes, James DeLoach and Josh Dawson.  Those four seniors appeared in every game for the Bulldogs last season and combined for 120 tackles, 7 tackles-for-loss and 1.5 sacks.  Along with true freshmen Trenton Thompson, those four defensive lineman played a majority of the snaps for the Dawgs.  This season, the Bulldogs will be relying a great deal on youth rather than experience.  The only upperclassmen expected to be a contributor on the defensive line is noseguard John Atkins.  Everyone else in either a first year or second year player.  It’s all going to start along the front with Trent Thompson.  The former 5-star recruit is poised for a breakout season in his second year on campus and should be a dominant force.  Fellow sophomore DaQuan Hawkins, who suprised in 2015, had a tremendous offseason and is in outstanding condition.  Fellow sophomores Michael Barnett, Justin Young and Jonathan Ledbetter (when/if he returns from suspension) each provide quality depth.  The fun part to watch will be the play of true freshmen Julian Rochester and Michail Carter who are both grown from a physical standpoint.  Both will have to grow up quickly and will be relied upon to contribute early and often.  You also can’t forget about fellow true freshmen Tyler Clark and David Marshall who have the frames to provide depth if needed. 

This group certainly does not have anywhere near the experience of the unit UGA fielded last season but I would argue that they have more size, talent and athleticism.  Their sack and tackles-for-loss numbers as a unit will likely be much higher meaning that they are going to be a more disruptive unit.

I certainly understand why, if you don’t play close attention to the Bulldogs, you would have concerns about their play on the line of scrimmage.  I have concerns myself primarily because of a lack of experience, but not because of lack of talent.  Because of the high quality coaching, these units will get better with each practice this summer and every game this fall.  They may be somewhat vulnerable early but sooner than later they will be identified as a strength. 

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Matthew “Huck” Pasek was born into a family of Georgia Bulldogs. Huck’s father, Gary, graduated from UGA in 1976 and became a high school chemistry teacher at Peachtree HS in Dunwoody, GA where he coached alongside Georgia High School football legend T. McFerrrin. Gary’s love of football, especially Georgia football, was passed along to his son. Huck lives in Belmont, NC with his wife, Whitney, and works in Financial Services Litigation. In his spare time he is an avid golfer, movie fanatic and habitual traveler to St. Simons Island with his wife “just to get away”. The moniker ImYourHuckleberry arose from his favorite movie, Tombstone, and character Doc Holiday’s famous line, “I’m Your Huckleberry”. Matthew was never one to shy away from a confrontation or debate, thus the nickname instantly stuck.

21 responses on “The Myth of UGA Lacking Horsepower at Line of Scrimmage

  1. IYH_BI

    Greg Poole IYH_BI I would argue for both lines of scrimmage he did which held the program back.

  2. IYH_BI

    DawgByte I won’t go into as much detail regarding the offensive line but I think the Class of 2017 is going to go a very very long way to instantly establishing a considerable amount of depth, size and talent in Athens along the OL for the near future.

  3. IYH_BI

    DawgByte I respectfully disagree with you sir on the “horsepower” and here is why:

    If you go strictly by the recruiting rankings UGA signed one 5-Star DL, five 4-Star and three 3-Star defensive lineman in the last two recruiting classes.  Rochester and Michail Carter (4-Stars) were borderline 5-star recruits and DaQuan Hawkins was rated as a 3-Star but I have much higher hopes for him.  (Does not count Rivers who is no longer with the team).

    If you look at Alabama during that same period they have signed one 5-Star DL, five 4-Star DL and one 3-Star DL and they are considered the gold standard (rightly so I might add).

    Therefore, while both classes certainly have something to prove I would argue that our talent level that we have added the last two years on the defensive line is similar.  What is killing us is the Class of 2013 and 2014 where we John Atkins is the only DL we signed that is still on the team playing defensive line.

    By contrast, in the 2013 and 2014 Class, Alabama brought in the likes of Da’Shawn Hand, Josh Frazier and Jonathan Allen who are three studs as they enter their JR and SR seasons.  

    That is what has created the depth issues that you mention as Point #2.  It is also why I would argue that UGA is not two years away from having the talent and size he wants on the DL, it is already here, it just depends on how fast it matures.  As for depth, Tracy Rocker and Kirby need to hit the trail hard to make sure they land at least 3 DL in this class so they can continue to build depth.

  4. IYH_BI

    BahitsAgain I don’t know that we will rotate 7 early on, probably more like 5 or 6 but by the end of the year I think we will be rotating 7 or 8.

  5. IYH_BI

    MMCSDAWG What is killing us is the Class of 2014 where the only DL we signed in the class was Lamont Galliard and he is now potentially starting at LG.

  6. PTCDawg

    DawgByte Who, besides Alabama, are the ‘elite teams’ that we have a big deficit of line talent against? I think our OL compares favorably to most SEC programs, the DL on the other hand, will take some work. But even the DL should be ok.

  7. wet willie

    I’m tickled to have the Hucks comments back. I also lean towards your opinion of our two lines. I believe that Pittman will expedite tremendous improvement in the play of our offensive line; but it’s going to be very tough to whip a good North Carolina team so early in our transition. However, we just might have enough time to work out the wrinkles by the time we play Ole Miss. I’ll give us a better shot at the Rebels than the Tar Heels.

  8. DawgByte

    Huck, good article, but I’m not sure you supported your thesis. In this particular case I agree with the media assessment and here’s why:

    1. When examining “horsepower” (or talent) you have to gauge your guys against other SEC rosters, which is what these media types are doing. The ultimate criteria for success/talent in an individual player is if they make 1st Team All SEC and All American. Guys who make those lists have proven themselves against elite competition game-in and game-out. I know Pyke and Kublanow have come up on a couple of pre-season national accolade lists. Worth noting those two are probably the best and most experienced across both of our lines. IMHO, Wynn is not a true LT. The only reason he’s playing that position is because of point #2. On the DL side, Trent Thompson clearly has the HS pedigree and unlimited upside. He has the potential to be the best interior DL since Stroud & Seymour. Now it’s time for him to rise to the occasion. 
    2. Depth, depth and more depth. The elite teams the media are comparing us to have four and five star guys waiting in the wings. Kirby has told us countless times that we have a depth issue and the media has rightly taken note, so we should listen and not turn on our Red & Black blinders. 

    Bottom line: We are at least two years away from having the type of talent, size, strength and depth Kirby wants across the trenches.

  9. BahitsAgain

    I am disappointed that Rocker didn’t substitute more.  That was one of the HUGE issues we all had with Gartner.

    I get getting comfortable with certain players and maybe the desire to help senior players by showcasing them, but rotation keeps fresher legs – especially come the 4th quarter, and it also gets the younger dawgs more experience.

    I hope this was an anomaly and that we rotate 7 to 9 players frequently going forward.

  10. ed603

    Great analysis! I also think Pittman will bring this collection of young pups along, and will field a superb oline before the season is over.

  11. Dave

    It’s the experience-trumps-all fallacy. It’s the only objective measure you can go by when trying to predict a team’s fortunes in the coming year, so I get it to a degree. However, as you basically said, it operates under the assumption that this year’s version of a player is no better than last year’s version of that same player when he was a back-up or not with the team. Likewise, it operates under the assumption that a returning starter is automatically better than he was last year, and therefore would have been better than his replacement this year. 

    The point is, most great players were not great the instant they stepped on the field. Further, as you adroitly noted, a new starter can be, and often times is better than the person he is replacing. Basically, as you and others are maintaining, there are unknowns for sure, but unknown does not, by any means, suggest poorer performance.


    Great analysis Huck!  Agree, I believe we are much more talented across the lines!  Experience will come and leadership will develop!  We aren’t deep across the DL due to some unforeseen situations, so keeping healthy and out of the dawghouse is paramount this season!

  13. Colonial Dawg

    I agree 100%.  Sure there will be some growing pains, but these guys are good, and the Finebaums and Barnhardts of the SEC I think are in for a surprise.

  14. DawgDaddy

    Good thoughts Huck, I’m with you on the lines.  Unknown but certainly not untalented.