ATHENS — There are some positions on the football field where it’s fine to experiment a bit, give a youngster a spot start, or let guys compete it out during the week before the game.
Center is not one of them.
On the offensive line, there are starting jobs where coaches can say, “Eh, just let’s see how it plays out during spring and preseason practice, we don’t need a long-range plan.”
Again, center is not one of them.
When you’re the center, you do more than just snap the ball to the quarterback. You’re the captain of the offensive line, the man who points out the defense before the snap, and history would indicate one of the leaders of the offense in general. It’s as important a spot as Georgia’s offense has had.
This year, there’s a vacancy. Brandon Kublanow has moved on after two years as the starting center. He was just the team’s third center since 2008, following the four-year tenure of Ben Jones and the three-year tenure of David Andrews.
Those were very stable tenures, too. Since the start of the 2009 season, Jones’ sophomore season, those three men started every game at center, with one exception: Jones was suspended the first half of one game in 2010 for a hit in the previous game. Otherwise, that’s 105 of the past 106 games started by just three different players.
So who’s next?
- Returning starters: None.
- Others returning: Lamont Gaillard, R-Jr.; Dyshon Sims, Sr.; Chris Barnes, R-Fr.; Billy Seward, Sr. (walk-on).
- Early enrollees: None.
- On the way: Netori Johnson, Fr.; Justin Shaffer, Fr.
- Analysis: Gaillard started every game at right guard last year, and was being groomed to take over this year. The same way that Kublanow, who started as a guard his sophomore year, was groomed to move over as a junior. While Seward was officially the second-team center, if something happened to Kublanow during the game, Gaillard would have moved over, with Sims replacing him at guard. So it stands to reason that Gaillard will be the guy this year. But could the staff entertain the idea of someone else during spring practice? There’s always that chance. Sims was taking snaps during practice late in the season. Barnes, who redshirted, has the ability to do it. Johnson and Shaffer project as interior linemen, though that could change. As important as center is, it still could depend on what happens at other spots. If Isaiah Wynn moves from left guard to left tackle, will there be a domino effect, such as coaches preferring to keep Gaillard at right guard? Doubtful, but you never know. And will there be a competition this spring, perhaps letting Barnes or someone else compete with Gaillard? Or would coaches prefer to name their guy early and let the other spots compete?
- Bottom line: There are no certainties on this line, with three seniors having to be replaced, and plenty of young talent coming in. The closest thing to being able to write one position in pen is here. If Gaillard isn’t the starting center on the first day of spring practice, it will be a surprise. Not a shock. But a surprise.