This popular (at least I’m claiming so) series has now arrived at the offensive portion, and we’re not waiting around. Let’s begin with the two most watched spots for 2017.
Georgia’s offensive line struggles are well documented. Those of us wishing to be spared a rehash of them, you are thus spared. Anyone with passing knowledge knows what happened.
Those people also know that the two men who occupied the two tackle spots were seniors and have to be replaced. But how high is that bar? The feeling here is that Greg Pyke, who started every game at right tackle, was better suited for guard, but did a decent job under the circumstance. The feeling here is also that Tyler Catalina, who started all but the bowl game at left tackle, was also put in a tough position, asked to go from an FCS school to the SEC. His season had its rough moments, for sure, but if Georgia had someone better, it would have used him.
In any case, a new era is upon Georgia at the tackle positions … maybe. Isaiah Wynn, lest anyone forget, started the bowl game at left tackle, and started the final five games of the previous season at left tackle. And could we foresee a scenario where a veteran is moved from guard to right tackle and starts there? Sure we could.
Kirby Smart and Co. haven’t divulged their plans yet. But we do know that offensive line coach Sam Pittman had quite the impressive recruiting haul, so you could also foresee a scenario where both tackle spots are actually taken by newcomers.
At minimum, there are more options this year.
The depth chart series began on defense, with the safeties.
Then we had the cornerbacks.
We moved on to the outside linebackers.
And then of course the inside linebackers.
The very talented defensive line.
Done with defense, we went to the place-kicking and kickoff spots.
Then it was the punters.
We wrapped up special teams with the return spots and long snapper.
And now, on to offense and the pivotal spot at …
- Returning starter: Isaiah Wynn (sort of), Sr.
- Others returning: Kendall Baker, Jr.; Aulden Bynum, Sr.; Ben Cleveland, R-Fr.; Pat Allen, R-Soph.; Sage Hardin, R-Soph..; Sam Madden, R-Soph.
- Early enrollees: D’Marcus Hayes, Jr.
- On the way: Isaiah Wilson, Fr.; Andrew Thomas, Fr.; D’Antne Demery, Fr.; Netori Johnson, Fr.; Justin Shaffer, Fr.
- Analysis: Wynn is undersized (6-2, 280) for a tackle, offers experience, and the line has looked good both seasons when he’s been at left tackle. If the staff hadn’t gotten Catalina last year, Wynn probably would have started there. Now there are more options: Hayes will be here in the spring, and mega-prospect Wilson arrives this summer. Thomas also projects as a tackle, while the other three are more likely interior linemen, at least at the outset. Don’t rule out a veteran contending for a spot here. Baker was the top backup at both tackle spots last year, other than Wynn, while Bynum played in some double-tight end formations. Cleveland was at guard last year while redshirting, but he’s still big enough to play tackle.
- Bottom line: Watch where Hayes is placed on the first day of spring practice. It would be a surprise if he’s first team, but if he’s second team at either left or right tackle, that’s probably where Smart and Pittman have decided to groom him. Wynn’s placement — left guard or left tackle — also will say a lot. The guess here is Georgia’s left tackle either will be Wynn or one of the newcomers (Hayes or Wilson), with Baker, Bynum and Cleveland having an outside shot.
- Returning starters: None.
- Others returning: Dyshon Sims, Sr.; Baker, Bynum, Cleveland, Allen, Hardin, Madden.
- Early enrollees: Hayes.
- On the way: Wilson, Thomas, Demery, Johnson, Shaffer.
- Analysis: This is where we bring up Sims, who was the O-line’s sixth man last year, available at both guard spots, as well as tackle, and was even getting some center reps. Sims figures to get first shot at one of the open spots, and could it be right tackle? Perhaps. Will Cleveland get a shot here, or will he remain at guard? What about Allen, who worked some at second-team right tackle last year? The temptation from a lot of fans might be to play the youngsters right away: Wilson and Hayes or perhaps even Thomas at the tackle spots, and give them a crash course for the future. But that would be risky for Jacob Eason’s development, and perhaps not fair to Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Unless, of course, the new guys are simply the best option.
- Bottom line: A lot of what was said about left tackle applies here, other than Wynn being an option. Well, that wouldn’t be shocking either — frankly after last year, everything should be on the table.