ATHENS — Georgia has won back-to-back national championships in large part due to its defensive line. Between the four first-round draft picks and wave after wave of contributors, few teams can match up with Georgia in the trenches.
The Bulldogs hope that will be the case once again this season. And while Jalen Carter and Jordan Davis aren’t around to push the group into shape, the group feels it is well-prepared entering the season.
That’s because the group has to go up against the Georgia offensive line in practice every day.
“We’ve got the best o-line in the country, so it’s always the best work,” defensive lineman Mykel Williams said. “I feel like we’re not going to play nobody as good as our o-line — well, I ain’t going to say that. Sorry. But I feel like our o-line is the best in the country.”
Georgia brings back three starters from the 2022 offensive line, which finished as the runner-up for the Joe Moore Award. Center Sedrick Van Pran leads things in the middle of the line, flanked by Tate Ratledge at right guard and Xavier Truss at left guard. All three have received some recognition in terms of Preseason All-SEC voting.
The Bulldogs do have to replace tackles Broderick Jones and Warren McClendon off of last year’s line. A path though has been cleared for Amarius Mims. He has generated considerable hype entering the 2023 season, with multiple prominent draft analysts seeing him as a first-round pick.
And that’s with only two career starts to his name.
“He repped as a starter, all camp he played as a one. He’s flip floppin’ and played both sides, he played in really big football games as a starter, so having him back is like having a returning starter back,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said.
Opposite Mims, Georgia will play both Earnest Greene and Austin Blaske. The Bulldogs have yet to settle on who their best five is but it’s not for lack of options. Greene impressed as a freshman last season, while coaches have long been fond of Blaske’s versatility.
Even beyond the first wave of offensive linemen, Georgia feels confident in what has on the second team offensive line. Dylan Fairchild, Micah Morris and Jared Wilson all have impressed this fall.
There are no breaks for the defensive line when the starters catch a breather.
“I don’t think I’m going to play against a better offensive line than them. That’s my honest opinion,” defensive tackle Warren Brinson said. “That’s the best offensive line in the country. The best two offensive lines in the country. Our ones and twos, they give it to us every day in practice. They’re going to get us prepared for sure. They make the games easier for us.”
Smart is slightly worried about the depth at the tackle position, but that’s normal for a head coach to worry about. The Bulldogs are hoping Chad Lindberg or Monroe Freeling make a move. They should get a chance to do so in early season games, provided the Bulldogs overwhelm UT-Martin and Ball State.
For as important as the defensive line has been for Georgia, the offensive line deserves just as much recognition. Broderick Jones is the only recent first round from the group but it has been a consistently strong unit for the Bulldogs.
The offensive line won’t just open holes in the running game or protect Carson Beck in the 2023 season. It helps get Georgia’s ever-important defensive line ready for what it will see during the 2023 season.
“They’re incredible,” quarterback Carson Beck said. “It instills confidence in my to be able to sit back there and maybe I can hold the ball half a second or a second longer and get through my entire reads because I have trust in them to get the job done.”
Georgia has yet to win the Joe Moore Award, given annually to the nation’s best offensive line. Michigan has won it in back-to-back seasons and could very well do so again in 2023.
But if the Georgia defensive linemen, who would know, were to get a vote, they’d make sure Georgia’s offensive line got the recognition it deserves.
“They’ve been snubbed the last two years for that award but I think they’re going to win it this year,” Brinson said.