WATCH Georgia football freshmen offensive linemen: ‘We have to get better’

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It is hard to imagine what the Georgia offensive line would look like without true freshman Cade Mays (left) and redshirt freshman Isaiah Wilson (right) this season. (Bob Andres/ AJC)

ATHENS — Georgia football led the SEC in rushing this season, and with four of the five positions returning starting players, the Bulldogs figure to get even more dominant.

The young Georgia offensive linemen take nothing for granted, however, with a trip to play Texas in the Sugar Bowl approaching.

The No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (11-2) play No. 15 Texas (9-4) at 8:45 p.m. on Jan. 1 in the Mercedes-Benz Dome in New Orleans.

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“We’re just going to go back to work, that’s all we know how to do, go back to work and try to get better for the next time we’re in that situation,” said Bulldogs’ right tackle Isaiah Wilson, a redshirt freshman who is up for FWAA Freshman All-American honors. “

“We work at it and we have a great O-Line coach, and we have players that are talented and have the  want-to to move people and be the best O-Line we can be,” Wilson said, asked how the Bulldogs offensive line has grown to be such a force.

“When you practice against the guys we have on defense every day, they’re great players, so it’s not a huge transition to game speed.”

Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman was a 2018 Broyles Award nominee as one of the top assistant coaches in the nation.

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The Bulldogs offensive line was one of the finalists for the Joe Moore Award, which goes to the best offensive lines in the country.

“One of the better coached units I’ve seen,” according to one of the Joe Moore panelists, who was quote anonymously in the award’s release. “Not quite last year’s unit, and RG 74 (Ben Cleveland) being out hurts. But to start a true freshman and operate at the level they do [with all the injuries] is commendable.”

Cleveland, a redshirt sophomore, has returned at less than 100 percent from the broken fibula he suffered on Sept. 22 against Missouri.

Cleveland is expected to make a full recovery by the start of next season.

Georgia brings back plenty of players with starting experience.

Wilson, senior center Lamont Gaillard and sophomore left guard Solomon Kindley were the only linemen to start all 13 games.

All-American sophomore left tackle Andrew Thomas started 12 of 13 games, freshman Cade Mays started seven games, Cleveland started four games and freshman Trey Hill started three games.

Hill has all the markings of being another future star on the Georgia offensive line, playing in all 13 games this season in addition to his three starts.

“It wasn’t that hard, I was prepared for the moment, and I stepped in and did what I did,” said Hill, a 6-foot-4, 330-pounder from Warner Robins. “Everybody can get better at everything — run blocking pass blocking. We have to get better, and we have to get closer.”

Hill said the speed of the game is the biggest adjustment coming from high school, but said he was “comfortable from the jump,” needing only to get used to the flow of the game around him.

Georgia had three players nominated for the FWAA Freshman All-American team from SEC rep Ron Higgins:

• Right tackle Isaiah Wilson

• Right guard Cade Mays

• Defensive tackle Jordan Davis

The team will be announced on Jan. 7 in San Jose, Calif., the morning of the College Football Playoff Championship Game.

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