ATHENS — Kirby Smart is worried about his offensive line. Not because of the talent in the room or continuity.
But because of all the preseason praise being placed at the foot of Georgia’s offensive line.
“The fear is reading what y’all say about them,” Smart said. “It’s believing what Warren Brinson says about Amarius Mims is going to be the gospel. You have to earn that. You have to go out and earn what you get and do it on tape. You just get told that you’re this or that doesn’t make you that. I can show you countless examples on tape where that hasn’t been true.”
Smart wasn’t all fire and brimstorm when it came to the offensive line. He’s seen plenty of promising moments during practice to know there’s serious potential with this group.
Not just with the returning starters in Sedrick Van Pran, Tate Ratledge and Xavier Truss. But even some of the backups behind them.
Smart has his worries about depth, as is the case with every position, but this offensive line isn’t just five deep. It’s closer to nine.
“Just the maulers that we’ve got up front. It’s not just in our first group, but the second group as well,’ defensive lineman Zion Logue said. “Our first two or three groups can go to any school in the country and play, I feel like. That’s what we pride ourselves on here at the University of Georgia. If a guy goes down, next guy’s got to be able to step up. We really believe and pride ourselves on that.”
Georgia has Amarius Mims poised to take over at right tackle. He’s received plenty of praise this offseason, be it from teammates like Brinson or NFL draft evaluators such as Mel Kiper Jr.
While he may have the highest ceiling of anyone on the offensive line, it shouldn’t be overlooked that the interior of the offensive line is all returning for another season. Van Pran has 30 starts under his belt, while Ratledge and Truss both started for Georgia last season.
“I think over that time, you can’t really function if you don’t have that trust in all the guys across the line,” Ratledge said. “So trust is a big thing for us in playing together as a unit so I have full trust in everybody that’s next to me.”
This group knows their roles, strengths and weaknesses. For example, Ratledge spent the offseason trying to become a more vocal leader.
There are also onfield aspects Ratledge knows he can improve on, heeding Smart’s words. He’s not alone in the group. Van Pran also spoke this week about focusing on technique, as opposed to just relying on raw strength to maul opposing defensive linemen.
This group knows there will be plenty of chatter about the Joe Moore Award, which has proved elusive to this group. Van Pran, Ratledge and the others would gladly take another title as opposed to being the best offensive line in the country.
That is what they are working for this season. And to Smart’s delight, the Georgia offensive line knows it’ll have to do it every single day to get there.
“I’m hopeful that we can be good but ultimately all we can do is strive to be better every single day,” Van Pran said. “I really think it starts with not taking things for granted. While we may have had guys that played last year, you realize it’s a totally different group. You have to have that cohesion, guys have to know how they’re going to do a double team together, how they may see a certain twist, pass certain things off”