One game into the season, and Georgia’s offensive line is already facing even more questions. That comes in the wake of Tate Ratledge’s foot injury, which will require season-ending surgery.
Ratledge injured his foot on the opening drive of the game for Georgia, which then sent in Warren Ericson to replace Ratledge.
“We have a motto, stay ready so we don’t have to get ready,” Ericson told reporters on Monday. “That was kind of what my mindset was. I knew that if any guard were to go down that I would go in. So as soon as I saw Tate (Ratledge) going like this (tapping the top of his head) I just had to run right back in.”
Ericson remained at right guard for the remainder of the game, with Georgia sticking with Warren McClendon at right tackle, Sedrick Van Pran at center, Justin Shaffer at left guard and Jamaree Salyer at left tackle.
Related: How Tate Ratledge injury will shake up the Georgia offensive line
Georgia could very well roll with that same starting five against UAB this coming Saturday. The Bulldogs gave up just a single sack to Clemson’s defensive line. The Bulldogs didn’t have a statistically great day, but when Georgia need to run the clock out late, the group was able to do so as the Bulldogs converted three third downs on their final drive of the game.
“It’s something that we work on,” Ericson said. “We’re really able to execute, so that was exciting to see our offense go out and do that.”
But when addressing reporters on Monday, Smart indicated we could see even further changes to the offensive line.
“There’s no definitive answer, it’s this is what we’re looking at,” Smart said. “We’ll look at Jamaree (Salyer), Xavier (Truss) both at guard-some, Warren and Owen (Condon) will continue to play guard.”
Smart expressed some concern about playing both Ericson and Sedrick Van Pran at the same time. His reasoning was that if both players were to go down — Ericson missed time during fall camp with a hand injury — Georgia would be in a very serious bind at center.
The long-term hope for Georgia this season was to eventually move Salyer to left guard, where he will likely play on Sundays. Justin Shaffer and Ratledge would likely then fight it out at right guard.
Georgia might still slide Salyer into the left guard spot, and now Shaffer to right guard as a way to alleviate concerns about Ericson.
And that could possibly open things up for former 5-star prospect Broderick Jones to enter the starting lineup.
“We feel like Broderick (Jones) is at tackle ready to go and play,” Smart said. “So we’ll have to wait and see.”
Jones was a 5-star signee for Georgia in the 2020 recruiting cycle and redshirted in his first season on campus. He’s now added the necessary weight and strength to seemingly be in a position to start at left tackle for the Bulldogs.
Ericson think Jones is capable of making a transition similar to what Van Pran did going into the Clemson game.
“Broderick is another guy who is calm, cool and collected. He’s ready for it,” Ericson said. “When he gets the opportunity to go into a game, I know he’s going to do really well.”
Related: Where things stand with Broderick Jones, Amarius Mims entering 2021 Georgia football season
Georgia could also go with Truss at either tackle or guard if need be. The Bulldogs will face another stout defensive front this week against UAB.
While the Blazers don’t have a Bryan Bresee-type figure in the middle of their defense, UAB did post a shutout in its opening game of the 2021 season.
The Bulldogs will be looking to have a much productive outing than their opening effort against Clemson. And it will have to do so without one of its key pieces in Ratledge.
“It is tough, as an offensive line we pride ourselves on being a brotherhood,” Ericson said. “So it is tough to see someone go down, especially on an injury like that, just a freak accident. We are going to be there for him, no matter what he needs we will always be there for him.”
But the Ratledge opportunity could open things up for another very talented member of the Georgia offensive line.
Warren Ericson talks Broderick Jones, offensive line shake up
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