Georgia’s most important players of 2017: Why Isaiah Wynn is No. 4

Isaiah Wynn has started 25 games over the past two seasons.

ATHENS, Ga. – There was never any press conference for Isaiah Wynn to announce he was returning for his senior year. Nobody pulled him aside to ask him about it after Georgia’s season ended. Frankly, it never occurred to anybody to ask whether he was exploring the NFL.

That would usually indicate something about a player. In Wynn’s case, that would be unfair.

Yes, Georgia’s offensive line has been a struggle for two straight years, and yes Wynn has been a member of that line for both of those years. That doesn’t mean he’s been part of the problem. And signs should point to Wynn needing to be part of the solution.

This is a player who offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, when asked last year about play makers on offense, mentioned Wynn, making a point about how offensive linemen can affect the game. This spring, with so many other pieces on the line unsettled, the coaches planted Wynn at left tackle and apparently told him he would stay there.

Could the plans change? Sure. But what won’t change is that when the five line up, we know one guy who will be out there.

Reminder: This is not purely a ranking of Georgia’s best players. It is an evaluation of which players are most vital to the team’s success in 2017 based on their own talent, the importance of their position, the depth at their positions, and the strengths and weaknesses of the team.

New starting center Lamont Gaillard was No. 12.

Wide receiver (it appears) Mecole Hardman came in at No. 11.

Now …

4. ISAIAH WYNN

Senior

Left tackle

WHY HE’S IMPORTANT: The left tackle is always important. And even if Wynn switches to left guard, or somewhere else, he will be the most experienced and (as of this year) seemingly the most effective and dependable member of the line. He’s the glue, the guy who will be the leader. Imagine for a second he’s taken out of the equation: Your choice of tackles are two of Dyshon Sims, Ben Cleveland, Aulden Bynum, D’Marcus Hayes, Isaiah Wilson and Andrew Thomas. There’s a collective zero college starts among that group, other than Sims having three starts at guard over the past two years. Now put Wynn back at left tackle, and it’s easier to hold your breath and start Cleveland, Hayes or one of the true freshmen at right tackle. And remember, the guards right now would also be first-time starters: Pat Allen at left guard and Solomon Kindley at right guard. Also zero college starts. Having Wynn in the lineup, and having him at his best, looks like a necessity for Georgia having an improved line.

FACTOID: Back in 2012, Georgia’s starting offensive line was comprised of three juniors, a sophomore and a freshman, and only one of those players was starting at the same position he started at the previous year. And that Bulldog team went on to be the highest-scoring offense in Georgia history, averaging 37.8 points per game.

BEST CASE: Well, a replica of the 2012 season would seem to be asking a lot, but the point is that even with a patchwork line that year – the left tackle was Kenarious Gates, who started at left guard the previous year – the offense did well. That was thanks to good coaching, good chemistry on the line and many great play makers on offense. (Only one of those five O-linemen would go on to be drafted, John Theus, but center David Andrews has famously succeeded anyway.) So what about this year? In Wynn’s case, if he can lock down left tackle then that takes pressure off everybody else. It wouldn’t then be a shock to see Wynn garner All-SEC consideration, and for Georgia’s offense to get back to around 30 points per game. (This past year the team averaged 24.5, the lowest at Georgia since the schedule expanded to 12 regular-season games.)

WORST CASE: Wynn’s size proves him to be a weak fit over the full season at left tackle, he moves back to left guard, the line is in flux all season, and Georgia fights to equal its output from last year.

FINAL WORD: In the long run, Georgia would prefer the traditional mammoth-sized offensive tackles. But Wynn’s athleticism at 305 pounds also has its benefits, especially if Georgia plays more up-tempo, and with linebackers and defensive linemen getting faster these days. So in the short run, it’s easy to see why coaches feel Wynn is the best solution.

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