ATHENS — Perhaps Broderick Jones was going to be ready even before Tate Ratledge suffered a season-ending injury.
Kirby Smart calculated the amount of time the redshirt freshman offensive tackle had put in to get on the field. Ratledge’s foot injury was not going to impact that.
“He’s ready,” Smart said of Jones. “He’s done about 60 or 70 practices, he’s had probably about 200 lifts, he’s had about 100 days of workouts but he’s worked really hard. He’s improved.”
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Jones was a 5-star prospect in the 2020 signing class, rated as the No. 2 overall offensive tackle in the 247Sports Composite rankings.
But Jones did not come to Georgia ready to play right away. He came into Georgia on the lighter side and needed to put on weight just to get over 300 pounds. And while his ceiling is high as a pass blocker thanks to his athleticism, he needed to become a more physical player in Georgia’s run game.
Now with a year under his belt, Jones seems capable of making an impact on Georgia’s offensive line. Smart made sure to clarify he’s still got plenty of room to improve, but Jones has addressed some of the more glaring weaknesses in his game.
“He was not very strong last year, he was weak at the point, he’s put on some weight he’s about 315,” Smart said. “He’s intelligent, he’s played left and right tackle. He understands how to pass off twists and gains.”
Jones no doubt benefits from facing off against Georgia’s defense in practice in both the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
A great way to prepare for seeing SEC-level defenses is by having to block members of a defense who sacked Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei seven times in Georgia’s season-opener.
“It’s just hitting at extra levels now. He’s going against me and Adam (Anderson) every day. Chaz Chambliss, MJ Sherman, he’s going against good pass rushers every day,” junior linebacker Nolan Smith said. “He’s only getting better and better, even at the run blocking, he’s getting better.”
Run blocking will be the biggest area to watch with Jones once he makes it onto the field. It’s not a coincidence that both Smart and Smith called that area of his game to attention.
With Ratledge being lost for the season, Georgia is likely going to have to reshuffle its offensive line. Warren Ericson filled in for Ratledge against Clemson, but Smart is hesitant to play Ericson and center Sedrick Van Pran together.
Jones also doesn’t have the positional versatility that either Jamaree Salyer or Xavier Truss possess. Salyer started and shined for Georgia at left tackle against Clemson, while Truss also played as an additional lineman for the Bulldogs.
Smart mentioned this week that both could play guard for Georgia if need be. The best path for Jones getting onto the field would involve moving Salyer to guard and opening things up for Jones at left tackle.
With the Bulldogs being a heavy favorite — even amid the uncertainty with quarterback JT Daniels — Georgia will look to get to a big lead and get some younger members of the team playing experience. An SEC-only slate last season limited playing time for young players, such as Jones who played in just two games.
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Jones should be one of the players, even more so now with the questions on Georgia’s offensive line.
“He comes out every day and gives it 110 percent,” Warren McClendon said of Jones. “He works hard on and off the field and I think he’s ready to play.”
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