An early deep dive on the most important position battle for Georgia’s 2021 team
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A deep dive on the most important position battle for Georgia football in 2021
The Georgia Bulldogs have a number of holes to fill on the 2021 roster. While there are a number of spots across the secondary that must be filled, there might not be a spot more important than left tackle for Georgia.
As important as defense is, offenses just matter so much more in college football. Alabama and LSU have won the Joe Moore Award in the last two seasons, which is given to the nation’s top offensive line. Those two teams have also won the national title.
For most of Kirby Smart’s tenure, he’s had a first draft pick at the left tackle spot, as that is where Isaiah Wynn and Andrew Thomas starred at the collegiate level. Georgia didn’t have that in 2020 with Jamaree Salyer filling in. He will be back for his senior season, but he might not be Georgia’s starting left tackle.
There could be as many as five realistic options to fill the left tackle spot. Ultimately Matt Luke and Smart will have to decide who best fills this massive role.
Below we offer a glimpse on those candidates and what they bring to the table as far as being the left tackle for the Georgia football team.
Jamaree Salyer: For nine of its 10 games in 2020, Salyer was Georgia’s starting left tackle. For the most part, he was a reliable option for the Bulldogs, as they just didn’t have the necessary depth at tackle to play Salyer at guard.
— Jamaree Salyer ♠️ (@jamareesalyer69) February 9, 2021
At the NFL level, Salyer will be a guard. Probably a pretty good one. In an ideal world, he’s manning one of the guard spots for Georgia next season. That would mean Luke feels comfortable enough playing someone else at left tackle so Georgia can move Salyer inside.
Salyer is very clearly one of Georgia’s five best offensive linemen, and he is not No. 5. In the Peach Bowl against Cincinnati, Salyer moved to left guard. That’s probably where Georgia would like to play the senior in 2021 if everything works out.
Georgia opens the season against a Clemson defensive line that figures to be one of the best in the country. Some have theorized of playing Salyer at left tackle for the opener and then moving him to guard starting in the game against UAB so the new left tackle can get established against a less-threatening opponent.
This type of move has been done before, with Georgia starting quarterback Greyson Lambert for the season-opener against North Carolina in 2016. In Georgia’s second game against Nicholls State, freshman Jacob Eason started.
There’s just one problem with having Salyer at left tackle and putting a less experienced player at guard. Clemson’s defensive tackles might be better than the edge rushers, as Bryan Bresee and Tyler Davis both figure to be problems next season.
If Salyer starts at left tackle for the majority of the 2021 season, it likely says a lot about the quality of the guys further down the list. It’s likely best for Salyer and for the Georgia offense if he is at left guard next season, instead of left tackle.
McClendon was the only starter in his regular spot for the Peach Bowl against Cincinnati, as Georgia moved Salyer to left guard, Justin Shaffer to right guard. Warren Ericson was filling in at center and Xavier Truss played left tackle.
McClendon is better against the pass blocker than the run at this point, which is why there’s a possibility Georgia could flip him over to the left tackle spot and allow for a more physical player to fill his role at right tackle.
While he might not have the recruiting pedigree of some of the other candidates, McClendon showed in 2020 that he can be a quality starter for the Bulldogs. Odds are he’ll be protecting JT Daniels at one of the tackle spots against Clemson. The question is just if it’s at right tackle or left tackle.
Xavier Truss: The Rhode Island native ended his redshirt freshman season by making his first career start. It was not the best debut for Truss but he did get more comfortable as the game went on and made a key block in space to spring a Zamir White touchdown run.
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Truss does have a better physical build than the likes of McClendon and Salyer, as he comes in at 6-foot-7 and 330 pounds. He definitely fits the bill for what Sam Pittman was looking for in his offensive linemen. Does he do the same for Matt Luke?
Georgia could flip the more nimble McClendon over to left tackle and slide Truss in at right tackle. Georgia played Thomas at left tackle and the bigger, more physical Isaiah Wilson at right tackle for the 2018 and 2019 teams.
Truss also does have an experience edge over the final two names on the list and does have more reps at the position. It will be interesting to see how his experience in the Peach Bowl impacts the race for this offseason.
Broderick Jones: Last offseason, Jones had all the hype. He was a 5-star tackle and a major recruiting win for Luke and Georgia. Freshmen starting at tackle in the SEC is rare, but if Thomas was able to do it — at right tackle in 2017 — so too could Jones some thought.
That ended up not being the case. Jones had an offseason injury that slowed his development to start the season. Add in that Jones needed to add considerable bulk to his frame, the now redshirt freshman from Lithonia saw action as a reserve in just two games.
Jones though will have a full, and likely more normal, offseason to adjust and contend for the starting job. He lacks the size that Truss or Amarius Mims possess, but another offseason of bulking up should help him, so long as he’s able to maintain his athleticism.
Given his recruiting pedigree, Jones will get a lot of mentions as a candidate for the left tackle job. If he’s able to live up to that hype, Georgia may not have too many questions about the left tackle position once things get up and rolling.
Amarius Mims: Everything that was being said about Jones last offseason is being said about Mims this time around. He’s an even higher-rated recruit as he was the No. 7 overall prospect in the 2021 class and the No. 1 player in the state of Georgia.
Before you start rolling your eyes given what happened to Jones, there are a few key differences between Mims and Jones.
Mims is already on campus for Georgia and actually went through some of the bowl practices with the Bulldogs. He’ll be able to go through spring drills and practice, while Jones was unable to last year as a summer enrollee.
Mims also doesn’t have the same size questions that Jones did. On Georgia’s updated 2021 roster, Mims is listed at 6-foot-7 and 320 pounds. That’s even before he really gets into the Georgia weight room and begins to strengthen his body.
Similar to Jones, there’s going to be many calling for Mims to play because of his recruiting background. It’s a lot to put on the plate of a true freshman. But if there’s anyone capable of protecting the blindside for one of the best teams in the country as an 18-year, it might just be Mims.
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