ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart has said the offensive line won’t have the same experience level and has a rebuild on its hands.
The Bulldogs need fifth-year senior Justin Shaffer to have his best season on and off the field.
Georgia offensive line coach Matt Luke opened spring drills dropping the same three names over and over and over in his media appearance.
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Three times, the trio of Shaffer, Jamaree Slyer, and Warren Ericson was mentioned, with Luke celebrating their ability to play different positions and provide leadership in the offensive line.
“Guys like Jamaree coming back and Shaffer and Warren Ericson,” said Luke, who enters his second season leading the offensive line. “They have been doing a great job of leading. I think, with guys that have some experience, it does give you a little bit of flexibility.”
The fact that Shaffer stood before the media near the halfway point of the spring football session is a testament to the 6-foot-4, 330-pound offensive guard hitting his stride in the ultra-competitive offensive line room.
Shaffer said it has been a matter of playing with a chip on his shoulder.
“I look at myself as the underdog,” Shaffer said, explaining how he was able to overcome the neck injury that ended his 2019 season prematurely. “Coming out of high school I was the underdog. Coming into college I was the underdog because I had people like Andrew (Thomas) and Isaiah (Wilson) in front of me.
“So I always played with that chip on my shoulder, like I have a point to prove.”
Shaffer came to UGA from Cedar Grove High School in Ellenwood, a 3-star prospect the 23 offensive guard in the nation and number 388 player overall.
Shaffer saw action in 20 games asa freshman and sophomore before getting his first start against Tennessee in 2019 after coming on in relief of an injured Solomon Kindley in the Notre Dame. Shaffer started against South Carolina before suffering a sprained neck that sidelined him the remainder of the season.
Coach Kirby Smart praised Shaffer for showing leadership in the 2020 winter workouts before COVID-19 protocol led to the cancellation of spring drills.
Shaffer indicated he considered coming out and entering the NFL draft, but he had consistency issues that lowered his stock, and by returning for another season he can answer those questions.
Shaffer’s value will also increase as he is showing he can be leader, as Luke indicated
“I’ve just been standing with (younger players) during practice and trying to give them the confidence so they can be a one and do whatever it takes to help the team, because at the end of the day, it’s about the best starting five who come out there,” Shaffer said.
“I feel like the momentum has shifted into the right place. I feel like it comes to the team bonding and everybody just being on the right page, and just connecting, to get us to go where we need.”