HOOVER, Ala. — The Georgia offensive line figures to be one of the most talked about position groups in recent history as coaches and players descend on the Wynfrey Hotel for the annual SEC Media Days event.
The Bulldogs return six players who started games last season, when Georgia led the SEC in rushing and Jake Fromm was hit fewer times than any league quarterback per advanced metrics.
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Fromm, himself, is a Heisman Trophy candidate. Tailback D’Andre Swift is a returning 1,000-yard rusher and is considered among the best at his position in the nation.
But there’s something about Georgia’s jumbo offensive linemen that has many people captivated.
Analysts, fans and alums alike have talked about the potential for the Bulldogs’ massive and talented offensive front, led by celebrated line coach Sam Pittman.
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“They look like a freakin’ great wall,” said former NFL and UGA offensive lineman Georgia Foster, himself 6-foot-5 and 338 pounds during his playing career.
“The Georgia line, what I really like about them is it seems they have recruited the right temperament that you want,” Foster said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the best group we’ve ever seen.”
Indeed, three of the 10 players featured on the Bulldogs’ 2019 media guide covers are members of the so-called “Great Wall.”
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Thing is, UGA hasn’t even settled on its starters, though the left side of the line and the center position seem safe enough to project.
“What they do in the offseason, what they work out like, how they do in school, how they compete in the fall,” Smart said, asked about the competition up front after the spring game, “Competition helps, we’ve had a great rotation.”
Outland Trophy candidate and preseason All-American left tackle Andrew Thomas (6-5, 320) will appear at SEC Media Days when Georgia takes its turn on Tuesday morning.
Solomon Kindley (6-4, 335) is the projected starter at left guard and could be the most underrated of the group, while sophomore Trey Hill (6-4, 330) will likely start at center barring injury.
The right side is less settled entering fall camp.
“Guys have competed really hard at right guard, Cade Mays has done a great job competing over there,” Smart said after the G-Da Game. “Right tackle is really up for grabs, both guys are competing, there’s a lot of positions in there that guys continue to get better.”
Redshirt junior right guard Ben Cleveland (6-6, 335) and redshirt sophomore right tackle Isaiah Wilson (6-7, 340) are battling to hold off Mays (6-6, 318), who also started games in 2018 and was a FWAA Freshman All-American.
Jamaree Salyer (6-4, 325), the No. 1 offensive guard in the 2018 class, is also working to win playing time on the offensive line after strong bowl practices and flashes during spring camp.
For all the talk, Smart made it clear he’ll judge off what he sees first hand.
“Can it be a strength for out team? Yeah, but so can a lot of our positions,” Smart said.