ATHENS — The guard spot isn’t as glamorous as the others on the offensive line. Actually, the guard spot isn’t glamorous, period. The only time those words tend to be in the same sentence are when pointing out that being an offensive guard is not glamorous.
Still, Georgia has had some pretty good guards over the years: Max-Jean Gilles. Cordy Glenn (before he moved to tackle) and Clint Boling are the most notable. And last year the team had a couple good guards. The only problem is one of them, Greg Pyke, was playing tackle. And the other one, Isaiah Wynn, moved to tackle for the final game.
Such was the state of Georgia’s offensive line, but with improved recruiting and the hoped-for development of returning players, the Bulldogs hope the pieces fit better in 2017 and beyond.
The five offensive line spots, of course, are all connected. We already discussed the two tackle spots last week.
Now let’s get to the men who will play beside them.
- Returning starter: Isaiah Wynn, Sr.
- Others returning: Dyshon Sims, Sr.; Ben Cleveland, R-Fr.; Chris Barnes, R-Fr.
- Early enrollees: None.
- On the way: Netori Johnson, Fr.; Justin Shaffer, Fr.
- Analysis: The tricky bit here is Wynn, who started all but one game at left guard last year — the final game, where he was at left tackle and did well, just as he did playing that spot near the end of the 2015 season. So, as we discussed at length in the offensive tackle analysis, does Wynn go to left tackle this spring, or does he stay here while newcomer D’Marcus Hayes or someone else goes to left tackle? Wynn is going to start somewhere. If it’s left tackle, Sims would be the favorite to slide in at left guard, given his experience. Cleveland and Barnes both redshirted last year but were doing well in practice near the end of the year. Johnson and Shaffer could be factors once they arrive, especially Johnson. There would seem to be a lot of options.
- Bottom line: Wynn will start somewhere on the left side. If he’s moved to left tackle, then Sims has the best shot to replace him. So there’s a pretty good chance Georgia’s starting left guard, at least on the first day of spring practice, will be a senior.
- Returning starters: Lamont Gaillard, Jr.
- Others returning: Solomon Kindley, R-Fr.; Pat Allen, R-Soph.; Sage Hardin, R-Soph.; Sam Madden, R-Soph.; Sims.
- Early enrollees: None.
- On the way: Johnson, Shaffer.
- Analysis: There’s a decent chance Gaillard will move to center this spring, where the spot has been vacated by Brandon Kublanow. Gaillard, a former defensive lineman, was effectively the backup center last year, taking reps in practice and before games in case something happened to Kublanow, which it never did. So Gaillard was being groomed to take over, but late in the year Sims also started taking some center reps. Meanwhile, Kindley was very close to playing more last season as a true freshman, when he got in that one play at Missouri, but still ended up getting a redshirt. And what was said about the other young players applies here too: If Gaillard moves to center, there will be a lot of competition. Something else to watch: Since four of the six newcomers are listed as tackles, don’t be surprised if one of them moves to guard. (Cleveland playing guard last year was a surprise, for instance.)
- Bottom line: Kindley will be first in line if Gaillard does move to center. But the starting job won’t just be handed to him.
PREVIOUSLY IN DEPTH CHART ANALYSIS SERIES
Safeties | Cornerbacks | Outside linebackers | Inside linebackers | Defensive line | Place-kicking and kickoff specialist | Punters | Return specialists and long snapper | Offensive tackles