ATHENS — Georgia football has had one of the finest offensive lines in the SEC the past three seasons, but the Bulldogs are expected to take a step back this season.
ESPN analyst Cole Cubelic ranks Georgia’s offensive line as fourth-best in the SEC entering into the 2020 campaign.
Cubelic has Alabama atop the list, followed by No. 2 Tennessee and No. 3 Kentucky. Florida is No. 5.
“I might feel worse about this group had Matt Luke not been hired,” Cubelic told DawgNation on Friday.
“Matt Luke will prove to be a tremendous hire for Kirby.”
Luke will need to be, and so will new offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
Georgia lost three starting offensive linemen to the NFL, including first-round offensive tackle picks Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson. Junior offensive guard Solomon Kindley was selected in the fourth round.
Junior Jamaree Salyer is the leading candidate to start the season at left tackle, while Justin Shaffer is the next man up at left guard. Trey Hill, also a junior, is a returning starter at center.
The right side of the line is largely in question, with Ben Cleveland a former starter at right guard returning, but Warren Ericson having done a nice job in the Sugar Bowl.
Kindley told DawgNation in April that junior Netori Johnson could return to the offensive side of the ball and compete at right tackle.
“There is a ton of change that can bring questions about what this year’s Georgia OL will look like,” Cubelic said. “But the fact remains, there is still big-time talent on the roster with solid experience.”
Indeed, UGA also has players like former 5-star recruit Clay Webb, and 5-star offensive line signee Broderick Jones, along with redshirt freshmen Xavier Truss and Warren McClendon. Incoming freshman Tate Ratledge possesses future star power, too.
Cubelic, who votes for the Joe Moore Award, said Salyer and Cleveland have the upside to be first-team All-SEC picks, while Hill has the look of a second-team selection.
The Joe Moore Award goes to the nation’s best offensive line. The Bulldogs were among the three finalists in 2017 and 2018, but not in 2019.
LSU won the award last season, Oklahoma in 2018 and Notre Dame in 2017.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart singled out Shaffer for his work in the offseason, which was worth noting considering Smart’s tendency to be limited with his praise.
MY top 5 SEC OL’s for 2020: pic.twitter.com/LnnEGWaJqZ
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) June 5, 2020
Georgia begins voluntary workouts on Monday, but countable football activity is not expected to begin until mid-July.
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