Kirby Smart is well aware of what people expect of Broderick Jones and Amarius Mims. The two 5-star tackles were signed in consecutive classes, and he knows people want to see them on the field.
“I think, unfortunately, so many people think so much of guys and they get rated by you guys and so many people to be so high,” Smart said. “It’s hard to live up to that expectation. But they’re talented. They’re very talented. They work hard.”
Jones was the No. 11 overall prospect in the 2020 signing class. Mims was even higger-rated as the No. 7 overall prospect in the 2021 recruiting cycle.
Inflating expectations is that Georgia is currently playing Jamaree Salyer at left tackle. Salyer, the No. 10 overall prospect in the 2018 signing class, had to wait until the final game of his sophomore season to crack the starting lineup. The next season, he excelled at left tackle for nine starts in 2020.
Salyer’s future though is brighter at guard. Which is why so many want to see Jones or Mims break through and crack Georgia’s starting lineup at left tackle.
“They have been working hard every day - they come in and they give it their all,” Georgia offensive tackle Warren McClendon said. “The good thing about Coach Smart is that everybody gets reps so they are coming along well and getting their reps.”
Entering the Clemson game though, neither seems primed to start against Clemson’s defensive front. McClendon, a Freshman All-American at right tackle for Georgia last year, and Salyer look to have the inside track at right and left tackle, while Tate Ratledge and Justin Shaffer are your probable starting guards.
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Jones needed to build strength upon his arrival at Georgia last summer. Add in that he came to Georgia in the middle of a pandemic and an SEC-only season, he didn’t get a chance to get much valuable playing time. He appeared in just two games depriving him the opportunity to get quality reps against an actual opponent.
That playing experience, even against an FCS foe, does have a long-term impact.
“To go see what you can do out there on the field and be comfortable with the speed of the game, that was important for me and the next upcoming years I had here at Georgia,” running back Kenny McIntosh said. “To get that comfortable feeling in the backfield or playing in the games, I think that’s a great thing Georgia did.”
Mims is just a freshman, having arrived on campus in January. He’s also been slowed by a back injury at times that has cut into his reps.
“You need lots of reps and he’s going to grow into a really talented player,” Smart said of Mims. “I’m excited about both of them in terms of where they’re going and they’re both in the conversation at tackle, both tackles.”
The Clemson game doesn’t figure to present much of an opportunity, as it’s likely to be a competitive game. But Georgia’s September schedule after Clemson does seem to open a window for players like Jones and Mims to get playing time. Georgia hosts UAB and South Carolina followed by a trip to Vanderbilt.
Starting offensive lines have also changed over the course of recent seasons for Georgia. Sometimes it’s due to injury, such as Warren Ericson becoming the starting center late in the 2020 season due to a Trey Hill getting knee surgery. Other times, like in 2017 with Ben Cleveland, it’s a young player finally showing enough to merit insertion into the lineup.
Jones and Mims will be fighting hard to make the latter true once again.
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