Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson announced in December that they would not be returning to Georgia for the 2020 season. On Tuesday, offensive guard Solomon Kindley did the game. On Wednesday, Cade Mays reportedly entered the transfer portal, with all intentions of ending up Tennessee.
All four of those players started multiple games for Georgia in each of the past two seasons and all still had at least one season of eligibility still on the table.
Now, none of them will be on the field when Georgia opens the 2020 season against Virginia on Sept. 7. There’s also the fact that Georgia’s offensive line will be under new direction, as Matt Luke replaced Sam Pittman as the Bulldogs’ offensive line coach.
But not all hope is lost for the Georgia offensive line. Pittman recruited incredibly well in his time at Georgia and left the cupboard more than stocked with replacements. And the Bulldogs are set to bring in some talented offensive linemen as a part of the 2020 recruiting cycle.
So while Georgia’s 2020 offensive line might not be as great as the 2019 version — which Pro Football Focus ranked as the second-best in the country — there will still be plenty of talented options to choose from when the Bulldogs open against the Cavaliers.
Returning contributors to Georgia football offensive line
Trey Hill: The rising junior started all 14 games at center this past season for the Bulldogs. And while it wasn’t always perfect, Hill was still a good player who has room to get better. The 2019 season was the first time in his life that he started and played a full season at the center position. Another offseason will likely help Hill get more comfortable.
If Georgia wanted to make a change at center, Hill also certainly has the body and skillset to fill-in at guard as well. He started multiple games at the position during Georgia’s 2018 season.
Ben Cleveland: Cleveland has not yet made a public announcement on what he intends to do for the 2020 season, but when it was first reported that he would miss the Sugar Bowl due to academics, it was also indicated that he would return to Georgia for the next season.
He started seven games at right guard during the 2019 season and earned SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors for his play against Missouri. Some will wonder if Cleveland can kick out to either of the tackle spots given his massive size and Georgia’s more glaring holes at these positions, but Cleveland’s likely best fit for Georgia will be at the right guard spot.
Role players who could emerge into starters on Georgia football offensive line
Jamaree Salyer: When Wilson skipped out on the Sugar Bowl, Salyer took over at his spot at right tackle. By all accounts, Salyer had a strong game and he did work as Wilson’s back-up for much of the season at the right tackle spot.
Salyer was ranked as the No. 1 offensive guard prospect in the 2018 signing class, but his future might be better off manning the right tackle spot. Georgia has considerably less proven depth at that spot and a strong spring practice session could see Salyer lockdown that right tackle spot. It is probably a safe bet to pencil him in as the starting right tackle for the 2020 season.
Justin Shaffer: When Kindley went down with an injury against Notre Dame, Shaffer filled in and started the next two games for the Bulldogs at left guard before going down with a neck injury. Shaffer never returned to the lineup after the neck injury against South Carolina.
The senior has seen plenty of action over the years and has already announced he will be returning to Georgia for his senior season. Much like Salyer at right tackle, Shaffer is the favorite to be the starting left guard for Georgia in 2020.
Warren Ericson: With Cleveland out for the Sugar Bowl, Ericson slid into the right guard spot. And outside of one holding penalty and a tongue-lashing from Kirby Smart, it was a solid effort for the redshirt freshman.
Ericson may not have a starting spot in 2020 if he is unable to beat either Cleveland or Shaffer at one of the guard spots. Ericson did play center in high school and came to Georgia as the No. 5 center prospect in the 2018 recruiting class. So Georgia could slide him in a center and move Hill to one of the guard spots potentially.
It seems almost certain that at worst, Ericson will function as Georgia’s sixth offensive lineman, a role Mays filled quite often in 2019. Ericson could function as the Swiss-Army Knife of the group, filling whatever role Georgia would need him to.
Unproven Youngsters who could impact Georgia football offensive line
Xavier Truss: Truss was the No. 1 ranked prospect in the state of Rhode Island and the No. 19 overall tackle in the 2019 recruiting cycle. Truss did find himself on the travel roster for a number of games, indicating he was thought of as a possible option in case of an injury.
Truss appeared in only two games this past season, preserving his redshirt status. Truss figures to factor into the tackle discussion, whether that be at left and right tackle.
Warren McClendon: McClendon is also a member of the 2019 recruiting class and he actually saw more action in 2019 than Truss, as McClendon played in four games. He was ranked as the No. 22 offensive tackle prospect in the 2019 class, and enrolled early at Georgia last year.
McClendon figures to factor in at either guard or possibly tackle during the 2020 season.
Clay Webb: Of the three 2019 signees, Webb was actually the highest-rated signee in Georgia’s class. He was a 5-star prospect and the No. 29 overall prospect and the No. 2 center prospect in the country. Landing him was a massive recruiting win for Pittman, as Webb is from Oxford, Ala.
Webb figures to factor in at either the guard or center battles. He appeared in two games this past season but was also named the Co-Offensive Scout Team player of the year for Georgia. This will also be Webb’s second spring at Georgia as he was an early enrollee last season.
Owen Condon: Condon signed as a member of the 2018 class and will be a redshirt sophomore next year in terms of eligibility. He was inactive for most of the 2019 season due to injury. He figures to factor into the tackle discussion going forward.
2020 recruits who could help the Georgia football offensive line
Broderick Jones: He has not officially signed as a member of Georgia’s 2020 recruiting class, but Jones is still publicly committed to Georgia. He will be taking an official visit to Georgia this month, as well as ones to Tennessee and Auburn, and Georgia will have to hold off those potential suitors.
But should the Bulldogs retain Jones, it would be a massive win. He is not an early enrollee, but Thomas wasn’t either before emerging as a starter as a freshman. Jones is currently listed at 6-foot-5 and 285 pounds, but that is largely due to him currently being in basketball shape.
Jones is the No. 2 ranked offensive tackle prospect in the class and after seeing him perform at the Under Armour All-American Game in Orlando, he will definitely have an opportunity to come in and compete for a starting job at either of the tackle spots.
“I know the playing time is going to come down to me. It’s not about the school,” Jones said of possible early playing time. “Either way I know have to go in and work, learn the playbook, hit the weight room, work on my skillset. Hopefully, I won’t have to redshirt and can start my freshman year.”
Tate Ratledge: Ratledge is the highest-rated offensive line prospect Georgia has signed in the 2020 class, as he’s rated as the No. 3 offensive tackle prospect and the No. 36 overall prospect in the 2020 recruiting cycle.
Ratledge will not be enrolling early, but that won’t stop Ratledge from pushing for early playing time. While many expect Ratledge to be a tackle, he could also potentially bump down to guard, much like Cleveland did when he first arrived at Georgia.
Sedrick Van Pran-Granger: Van Pran-Granger is in the same boat as Jones in that he is a committed but unsigned prospect. But the difference between Jones and Van Pran-Granger is that the latter only has an official visit to Georgia scheduled and he made it clear Georgia is going to be the place for him.
Van Pran-Granger is the No. 2 center prospect in the 2020 recruiting class and had a strong week at the Under Armour All-American Game. He can play either center or guard at the next level and played for one of the top teams in the state of Louisiana. While he won’t be enrolling early, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see him making a difference during fall camp.
Chad Lindberg: Lindberg signed during the early signing period and he was very happy that the Bulldogs ended up hiring Luke as the offensive line coach.
Lindberg rates as the No. 17 offensive tackle prospect and the No. 126 overall prospect. He comes from Clear Creek, Texas and figures to be a tackle at the next level.
Devin Willock: After Luke was announced as the offensive line coach at Georgia, Willock was the first offensive line prospect to publicly commit to Georgia. He backed off his pledge to Penn State and ended up signing with the Bulldogs.
He rates as the No. 67 offensive tackle prospect and 895 overall prospect. He did see his senior season end early due to a knee injury and might be a good candidate to redshirt for the 2020 season.
Austin Blaske: Georgia landed Blaske on Dec. 18, as he made a surprise announcement for the Bulldogs. He comes from Guyton, Ga., near the Savannah area. He is the No. 525 overall prospect in the country and the No. 42 offensive tackle prospect. While Willock is listed at 330 pounds, Blaske is 278 pounds, making him the lightest of any incoming offensive line prospect.
Georgia football projected 2020 offensive line
Left Tackle: Broderick Jones, Xavier Truss
Left guard: Justin Shaffer, Warren Ericson, Clay Webb
Center: Trey Hill, Warren Ericson, Sedrick Van Pran-Granger
Right guard: Ben Cleveland, Warren Ericson, Clay Webb
Right Tackle: Jamaree Salyer, Xavier Truss, Owen Condon
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