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Depth chart breakdown: offensive line
The most obvious difference between Georgia’s offensive line this season and those of recent vintage is the size. Simply, these dudes are massive.
This is, of course, by design. Former Georgia coach Mark Richt typically used thinner, more mobile linemen. So, when Kirby Smart came to Georgia in 2016, he hired offensive line coach Sam Pittman to recruit and coach a mammoth line suited to the team’s new power-run strategy. If we’re measuring purely by size, this undertaking has been a wild success.
In 2015, Richt’s final season, the starting offensive line averaged 6-foot-4, 290 pounds. The next season, Smart’s first, the line grew to 6-4, 304 pounds. Last season, it grew again to 6-4, 310 pounds. But the projected starting five for 2018 is by far the biggest yet, with an average size of 6-foot-5 and 317 pounds. Like I said, massive.
But, as we know, size is not the only measure of a good line or a good lineman. (Ask Isaiah Wynn.) Talent is much more important. And by that metric, Georgia’s line has also improved markedly over the last four years. In 2015, Georgia’s offensive line had an average 247Sports composite of 0.92242. That grew to 0.9231 in 2016. Last season, the average jumped all the way to 0.94388. For the 2018 projected starters, the average rose to 0.95248.
This season will feature the final vestiges of Richt’s offensive line — and, for that matter, Richt’s roster — and we’re finally beginning to see the end game of Smart and Pittman’s project. But the work isn’t finished yet. With the way Smart and Pittman recruit, Georgia’s line is going to continue getting bigger and better until it’s the biggest and best in college football.
This post is part of an ongoing series breaking down Georgia’s post-spring depth chart position by position. For links to the other posts in this series, check the bottom of this section.
- Andrew Thomas (Sophomore) — Thomas was one of the best surprises of last season. This season, he’ll move from right tackle to left tackle and from pleasant surprise to the anchor of the line.
- Kendall Baker (Senior) — see below.
- Kendall Baker (Senior) — Baker isn’t only the likely starting left guard, he’s also the backup to Thomas at left tackle. Thomas figures to play nearly every offensive snap this season, but if he were to miss any time, I’d expect Baker to jump over to tackle, and one of the many backup guards on the roster to take this spot. [Quick note: To make things simpler, I’m listing all backup guards under LG instead of differentiating between right and left. Just imagine the following list under the first-team RG as well. And although the following are numbered, I consider their odds even to take a second-team spot. Check out this post I did about Georgia’s guards a few months ago for a better picture of where the Dawgs stand at this position.)
- Jamaree Salyer (Freshman) — Salyer is the most naturally gifted guard Smart has recruited to Georgia yet. If he comes to Athens with the same poise and polish as Thomas — a fellow Pace Academy product — he’ll work his way onto the second team by the time the season begins.
- Trey Hill (Freshman) — Hill enrolled early and received a lot of work as a second-string left guard this spring. By the end of preseason, he should be locked into the second team on either the right or left side.
- Solomon Kindley (Redshirt sophomore) — Kindley started at right guard for most of the 2017 regular season but was supplanted by Ben Cleveland following the Auburn game. But he’ll need to work harder than ever to beat out these talented freshmen and put himself back in the starting conversation.
- Lamont Gaillard (Senior) — Gaillard is a solid blocker and Jake Fromm seems comfortable taking snaps from him. He’ll be one of the leaders of the unit this season, which could prove crucial if those freshman guards step up and earn first-team reps beside him.
- Warren Ericson (Freshman) — Ericson seems to be tabbed as the replacement for Gaillard and he figures to work with the second team. But that could change if one of those talented freshman guards gets a look at center.
- Ben Cleveland (Redshirt sophomore) — There was a time when it seemed Cleveland was destined to play tackle, but he was excellent as the starting right guard for the final third of the 2017 season. Between how good he is at guard and the talent Georgia has at tackle, I expect Cleveland to spend the rest of his UGA career at right guard.
- Isaiah Wilson (Redshirt freshman) — The greatest reason for the size jump in Georgia’s line is Wilson (6-7, 345 pounds) replacing Wynn (6-2, 285 pounds) at tackle. He’ll head into preseason on the first team but has work to do if he wants to stay there.
- Cade Mays (Freshman) — That’s because Mays, another 5-star tackle, is nipping at his heels. The battle between these two should be one of the story lines of fall camp. Regardless of who wins, each will be better for it.
Depth Chart Breakdown: Running Back | Wide Receiver | Tight End | Quarterback