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Redshirt freshman Isaiah Wilson is the favorite to be Georgia’s starting right tackle in 2018.

Georgia football: Will freshman start at right tackle for second straight season?

Cy Brown

Welcome to Good Day, UGA, your one-stop shop for Georgia football news and takes. Check us out every weekday morning for everything you need to know about Georgia football, recruiting, basketball and more.

Position battle: Right tackle

When offensive line coach Sam Pittman was searching for a starting right tackle before the 2017 season, he looked to a greenhorn on the squad. Freshman Andrew Thomas earned the nod and started all 15 games.

Although the line was thought to be one of the weakest units on the team heading into last season, it ended up being one of the strongest, thanks in no small part to Thomas. He established himself as one of the best linemen on the team through the season, transforming the right tackle from a weakness into a strength. In 2018, he’ll shift to left tackle, setting him up as a cornerstone of the line for the next two or three years.

Which brings Pittman and Georgia right back to where they were last offseason,  searching for a starting right tackle. And the solution probably will be the same as it was a year ago, by throwing a youngster right into the fire.

As spring practice approaches, DawgNation is taking a look at some of the most important position battles, so I’ll be writing about the players in contention for each spot. As you probably figured, we’re beginning with right tackle.

In order, here are the guys I think have the best chance of starting at right tackle in 2018:

  • Isaiah Wilson — Many figured Wilson would be the freshman lineman to earn a starting gig 2017 thanks to his 6-foot-7 frame and 5-star rating. But, as with most young offensive linemen, Wilson came in on a steep learning curve, and Thomas, not as physically impressive but a more complete player, ended up being the freshman who started. With a redshirt year spent learning the scheme and hitting the weight room, Wilson is the most likely guy to win the right tackle gig.
  • Cade Mays — Mays is an incoming freshman too gifted to not eventually earn a spot somewhere along Georgia’s offensive line. But how soon can he do that? Mays enrolled early and will battle it out with Wilson and the rest of the linemen in spring practice, so that gives him a nice leg up on other incoming freshmen. However, that’s still almost a year less than Wilson has spent with program. In my opinion, Mays will need to be preternatural talent à la Thomas — which he very well may be — to become his successor.
  • Ben Cleveland — Cleveland, who is entering his redshirt sophomore season, is the dark horse and least likely of the three options, if only because his fate may be somewhat out of his hands. Cleveland came on strong at right guard over the final third of the season; strong enough to make everyone think he may have a real bright future at the position. As things stand right now, he’s the best guard on the team. That could change, though. Blue-chip incoming guards Jamaree Salyer or Trey Hill could be a more natural fit than Cleveland, who is built like a tackle. And Solomon Kindley could come back strong and win back the right guard job. If either of those scenarios come to fruition, it would make sense to shift Cleveland back to outside and let him battle at right tackle.

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Lady Dogs receive No. 4 seed, will host NCAA Tournament at Stegeman

The Georgia women’s basketball earned a No. 4 seed in East Region of the 2018 NCAA Tournament on Monday, which means it will host a first- and second-round games at Stegeman Coliseum. The Lady Dogs will face No. 13 Mercer in Athens at 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. The winner will play the winner of No. 5 Duke vs. No. 12 Belmont on Monday at Stegeman.

Mercer, from three hours down the road in Macon, will be a familiar opponent for Georgia. Georgia already won at Mercer (30-2) this season, 72-54 in November. That loss to the Bulldogs and Western Kentucky the following week were the Bears’ only blemishes of the season. Since late November, they’ve rattled off 27 straight wins and claimed the Southern Conference title.

Georgia coach Joni Taylor has now earned two NCAA Tournament berths in her three years in charge of the program.

Thad Matta was on campus Monday

It’s still early the process, but there was a good bit of news on the men’s basketball coaching search front on Monday. The biggest bit of info came from Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald, who reported that former Ohio State coach Thad Matta visited Athens on Monday and was dropped off at the airport by athletic director Greg McGarity. (Photo evidence below.) With a visit to Athens, tour of facilities and presumably discussions about a potential deal, it’s safe to say Matta is Georgia’s top target.

In other news, Seth Emerson of DawgNation confirmed Georgia representatives contacted former Indiana coach Tom Crean, but it’s unknown if discussions have gone beyond gauging each party’s interest.

Stay tuned to DawgNation. There’s sure to be much, much more written on this search and the subsequent hiring in the coming days and weeks.

Odds & Ends

Here are some other DawgNation posts you may have missed Monday.

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