Curtis Compton/AJC
Kendall Baker (left) and Lamont Gaillard went from defensive line recruits to offensive line starters at Georgia.

Could Georgia move anyone from offensive to defensive line?

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Over the past three recruiting cycles, we have added a lot of contributors and depth to the offensive line. Do you foresee the coaches taking an opportunity in the spring to see if any of those guys can give us a look on the defensive line? If so, who might that be?
― Doug

This is a natural question to ask, considering the stacked recruiting class Sam Pittman and Co. just pulled in, on top of a good offensive line class last year. The position seems to already be in danger of being over-recruited.

There’s also plenty of history of successfully moving someone from one side to the other. Lamont Gaillard, Georgia’s current starting center, came to school as a 4-star defensive lineman. Kendall Baker, the starter last year at left guard, was recruited as a defensive lineman. Other players have made similar moves, such as Justin “Bean” Anderson, who went from nose guard to starting tackle. And going even further back, Chris Terry originally was a defensive lineman in the 1990s before moving to tackle, where he became an NFL second-round pick.

The common thread: They all went from defense to offense. It doesn’t often happen the other way around.

The reason for that is relatively simple: Defensive players need to be quicker. Offensive linemen are smart, technical players and sometimes will be called on to run and pull. But defensive linemen have to chase plays, and whether you have the ability to do that often gets pinpointed in high school or the recruiting process.

Here’s a quote from New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick on the subject two years ago: “Most of the offensive linemen get moved from defense because they don’t run well enough. If they ran better, they’d probably play on defense, because those guys are hard to find. So to see those players offensively that can run 4.9, 5-flat at those kind of weights, most of them are first- or second-round left tackles. That’s where most of them show up. That’s a premium position on offense. If you have that kind of an athlete, you probably could play them on defense or you could play them at left tackle. That’s where they go. So do they get moved? I don’t think you move a defensive lineman to the offensive line unless you’re going to move them to left tackle or, again, you have so many defensive linemen that you can afford to move him. Usually you move them because they don’t run well enough.”

All that said, could someone at Georgia make the move? After all, it’s recruited some good, athletic offensive linemen.

Well, first off this assumes a need to do so. Georgia isn’t quite deficient in its defensive line depth, unless there are a few injuries. Here are the projected scholarship players for 2018:

Tyler Clark, Jr.
Julian Rochester, Jr.
Jonathan Ledbetter, Sr.
David Marshall, Jr.
Malik Herring, Soph.
Devonte Wyatt, Soph.
Michail Carter, Jr.
Justin Young, Jr.
DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle, Sr.
Michael Barnett, Jr.
Tramel Walthour, Fr.
Jordan Davis, Fr.
Brenton Cox, Fr. (also an outside linebacker)

That’s 12 guys, and 13 if you count Cox. (It will be 10 in the spring, with Walthour and Davis not yet enrolled.)

The offensive line at this point has 17 scholarship players:

Andrew Thomas, Soph.
Kendall Baker, Sr.
Lamont Gaillard, Sr.
Ben Cleveland, R-Soph.
Solomon Kindley, R-Soph.
Isaiah Wilson, R-Fr.
Jamaree Salyer, Fr.
Trey Hill, Fr.
Cade Mays, Fr.
Owen Condon, Fr.
Warren Ericson, Fr.
Pat Allen, Jr.
Netori Johnson, R-Fr.
Justin Shaffer, Soph.
D’Marcus Hayes, R-Jr.
Sam Madden, Jr.
Chris Barnes, R-Soph.

Yes, more players are on offense than defense, so you can see the thought going through people’s heads: Trade a few over and see what happens. But it’s also 17 players for five spots, versus 12 guys for four (or three) spots. And it would have to be someone quick enough to be a factor on defense. Kindley is someone who jumps to mind as being noted for his athleticism, being a swimmer and all. But that’s just me thinking out loud, without any knowledge. The coaches probably would laugh if I asked about it.

The recruiting and evaluation process is so thorough these days that the right decisions on a player’s best position usually has been made well before he gets on campus.

So to answer your question, Doug: I wouldn’t rule it out. But I wouldn’t rule it in, either.

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