HOOVER, Ala. — Georgia’s so-called “Great Wall” of an offensive line has their own saying in the meeting room.
“It’s like Coach Pittman says,” right guard Ben Cleveland says, “we have got to start the party.”
Coach Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs are a consensus top five team entering the 2019 season with visions of partying in New Orleans after the College Football Playoff Championship Game this season.
As always in the game of football, it all starts up front.
“I really just want our guys to dominate the guy that lines up across from them, it’s just that simple,” Smart said at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin in May. “If every guy that we put on the field can dominate the guy across from him, then I think we’ll come out ahead and I’ll be happy about it.”
Smart and his three Bulldogs’ representatives will do their talking in Hoover, Ala., at the SEC Media Days on Tuesday morning.
Preseason All-American and Outland Trophy favorite Andrew Thomas will join QB Jake Fromm and Safety J.R. Reed as a UGA representative.
Cole Cubelic, a former Auburn offensive lineman and current analyst for ESPN and the SEC Network, projects the Great Wall as the favorite to win the coveted Joe Moore Award, which goes to the best offensive line in college football.
“Going into the season, I talk about Georgia, Oregon and Alabama as the top three in the country, and then you pencil in Wisconsin and a couple of others,” Cubelic told DawgNation.
“I think Clemson and Michigan are probably in that discussion, and Washington might have a chance to be in there. Auburn has all five starters back, but they didn’t play great football last year and were at times they were inconsistent.”
Georgia has been among the three finalists for the Joe Moore Award each of the past three seasons. Cubelic is part of the panel that votes on the award, last year picking Oklahoma, the year before, Notre Dame.
Cubelic ranks juniors Solomon Kindley and Ben Cleveland as the top two offensive guards in the SEC, and Outland Trophy favorite Andrew Thomas as the best offensive tackle.
“Sam Pittman has his hands full in the best possible way of, I’d say, any offensive line coach in the last 15 or 20 years,” Cubelic said. “He has a lot of really good problems to work out this offseason with that depth of talent.”
Here’s a look at how Cubelic sees the Bulldogs’ offensive line:
Solomon Kindley, 6-4, 335, RS junior
Cubelic: “With Solomon it’s versatility first and foremost, he doesn’t have just one area of strength in his game, he does a lot of things well, he has great feet and lateral quickness. He brings power, he can get downfield in the screen game and run game to the second and third level.
“He’s pretty good in pass protection, (but) he didn’t have a great game against Alabama or Texas in pass protection. But the majority of the group had a lot of breakdowns against Texas when you go watch that game again.
“I think Solomon is the unsung hero of that whole group. He has just been so steady, and that goes back to the South Carolina game when everybody wanted to talk about all the other guys in that group.
“So with Solomon I would say it’s versatility and having no weakness in his game, and not relying on one strength, his great feet and good body control.”
MY top 5 SEC OG for 2019:
1) Solomon Kindley- Georgia
2) Ben Cleveland- Georgia
3) Marquel Harrell- Auburn
4) Deonte Brown- Alabama
5) Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms – Mizzou
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) June 27, 2019
Andrew Thomas, 6-5, 320, junior
Cubelic: “Andrew has the perfect frame and great length. He uses his hands well and his feet have greatly improved over the past two seasons.
“He can change direction well for a guy that size, and he has good power and pad level that gives him preferred leverage against pass rushers.
“Those are the reasons I have Andrew as my number one offensive tackle in the league.”
MY top 5 SEC tackles for 2019:
1) Andrew Thomas – UGA
2) Jedrick Wills- Alabama
3) Alex Leatherwood- Alabama
4) Yasir Durant- Missouri
5) Prince Tega Wanogho- Auburn
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) June 27, 2019
Ben Cleveland, 6-6, 335, RS junior
Cubelic: “Ben has been banged up, you haven’t seen a ton of film on him, so obviously we’re using a projection of him being healthy and starting — I’d think it could still be Cade Mays here.
“But with Ben I’m not sure we’ve seen a ton of guys like him. When you talk about that much mass that moves that well, that can get that kind of a push, he’s just a different character.
“With Ben you get an amazing amount of power, in a frame that we just don’t see this often. He has a hybrid Alan Faneca-Quenton Nelson, type of frame.
“I just don’t know if we’ve seen a guy with that kind of mass, with that kinda of body fat percentage that moves the way that he does. It’s hard not to project him being special when you see physically what he has a chance of being capable of.”
Isaiah Wilson, 6-7, 340, RS sophomore
Cubelic: “I don’t have Isaiah in my top five offensive tackles in the SEC, but obviously he has the potential to be in there because of his frame and power. But you go back and watch the film from last year, and the consistency just isn’t there, guys are able to get outside of him, and he wasn’t on a level with the others.”
“Physically, he has a first-round frame, giant hands, and he’s 335 pounds with no fat, he looks like a tight end the way he moves around, not stiff at all. He’s an athlete, and you can see that.
“But he’s not there yet. He’s a back bender, he needs to learn to bend a little better in his lower body. He gets his hands wide and misses often, but he makes up for it by being so massive. But you also see his feet get away from him at times, his feet get together, and guys will be able to get around him with the speed rush.
“Go put the Texas game on and you’ll see people get under his pads in the run game, and you see him get beat in pass protection and his feet got together a few times, and he lost his base and width, and that gets you beat. One thing I heard about Isaiah is he went to the coaching staff early in his career asking for help and assistance, and a lot of guys with his size and strength don’t ask those questions, so he has it between the ears.”
Trey Hill, C, 6-4, 330, sophomore
Cubelic: “I like his versatility. I’ve seen him at both positions (guard and center), so Sam Pittman has been cross-training him. A lot of times when guys come in playing center their fundamentals go out the window because they are focused on the snap an focused on everybody else’s assignment. Defensive guys can move, shift, and slant, and that can get the center focused on that more than those fundamentals, but that didn’t happen with Trey in the game.
“I think he has good power and quickness, and he looked more natural at center than guard. As far as talent, and ability and effort, I don’t think they’ll miss too much with Trey in there.
“I still wouldn’t get away from the fact that (former UGA center) Lamont Gaillard was a lot better than a lot people thought he was the last few years, and I still think hearing Sam talk about his leadership, that part will be tough to replace.”
MY top 5 SEC centers for 2019:
1) Drake Jackson- Kentucky
2) Lloyd Cushenberry- LSU
3) Daryl Williams- Mississippi State
4) Trystan Colon-Castillo- Mizzou
5) Trey Hill- UGA
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) June 28, 2019
Cade Mays, 6-6, 318, sophomore
Cubelic: “I could have easily had Cade Mays in my top five guards, it was hard for me to keep him out. I like the way he plays more than any of those other guys in that entire group.
“Cade is a finisher, he has that nasty you love to see and plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played. He has room to grow fundamentally, but he’s fun to watch, regardless.
“You routinely see him 10 or 20 yards downfield looking for contact on each play.”
Jamaree Salyer, 6-4, 325, sophomore
Cubelic: “Jamaree is a guy who will have a chance to play. He’s a big, strong kid, and he has a good feet. You can tell he’s a good athlete.
“I saw him lose leverage a little bit, and he doesn’t have a full understanding of pad leverage and gets a little high. But when he does get his hands on people, he can move people.
“The thing that stuck out was his power and ability to move people at the point of attack. But you could see there were times he was thinking too much, and he didn’t appear relaxed. but that’s part of being young.
DawgNation at SEC Media Days