ATHENS — Replacing Sedrick Van Pran and Amarius Mims won’t be an easy task for Georgia in 2024. Mims is a potential first-round pick, while Van Pran started 44 games during his college career.

“The amount of physicality on the offensive line and defensive lines in our league is brutal, and he’s stayed healthy,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said of Van Pran. “He’s competed. Probably one of the best leaders I’ve ever been around.”

But after the month of January, we have a better idea of how the pieces around the offensive line will look. And why one of Georgia’s best units in recent seasons, figures to be a strength once again.

The biggest news came when both Tate Ratledge and Xavier Truss announced they would return in 2024. Both were key starters for the Bulldogs in 2023, with Ratledge earning All-American honors at right guard and Truss starting at left guard and right tackle.

Any time you can bring talents like Ratledge and Truss back, you do it. Mims’ injury last season showed the importance of offensive line depth and why you can never have enough of it.

Which makes the fact that Dylan Fairchild and Micah Morris stuck around all the more important for Georgia.

Both guards earned key playing time during the 2023 season, with Fairchild starting nine games for Georgia. This upcoming season will be the fourth year in the program for both players and it would’ve been understandable if either player looked elsewhere to start.

Given the dearth of offensive linemen in the portal, both would’ve been coveted options. With the return of Ratledge and Truss, it’s not a guarantee that either starts for Georgia this season. So to have two offensive linemen like that gives Georgia some of that coveted depth on the offensive line. And both will push to be starters in 2024.

Georgia does bring back Earnest Greene after an impressive first season starting at left tackle. Greene and Van Pran were the only offensive linemen to start every game for Georgia this past season, with Greene earning Freshman All-American honors.

“I feel like nobody’s perfect, so I like to improve my game in all aspects,” Greene said. “So back to the drawing board day one just working on everything and trying to improve at everything.”

As for replacing Van Pran and Mims, Georgia has two rather obvious candidates. At center, Jared Wilson is the favorite to take over for Van Pran. Georgia has been preparing Wilson for this role for some time and the 2024 season will be his first chance to show what he learned from watching Van Pran.

Like Fairchild and Morris, the 2024 season will be Wilson’s fourth at Georgia.

Freeling was Georgia’s top-rated offensive lineman in the 2023 class and was the only freshman offensive lineman last year not to redshirt. He got his most significant playing time against Vanderbilt when Truss went down with an injury.

Expectations are high for Freeling to step in at right tackle, even though Truss could well be an option too. Truss started the Orange Bowl at right tackle when Mims missed the game.

As for depth beyond those two, Georgia will want to have multiple options at both tackle and center. Drew Bobo is seen as the backup center, while this spring will be significant for second-year players such as Jamal Meriweather and Bo Hughley. Five of Georgia’s 2024 offensive line signees will also be participating in spring practice as early enrollees.

Georgia has been a finalist for the Joe Moore Award in each of the past two seasons. There have been times when very legitimate arguments could be made for Georgia to have won the award.

The group has to come together over the course of the 2024 season and weather a grueling schedule that features road trips to Alabama, Texas and Ole Miss.

But on paper, Georgia should once again have one of the top offensive lines in college football. That’s been a good barometer for success under Smart in the past and looks to be so once again in 2024.