ATHENS – Jim Chaney was asked the other day, having spent almost nine months as Georgia’s offensive coordinator, whether he felt he had enough playmakers. It was meant to query Chaney about his receivers, tailbacks, tight ends, the so-called skill position players.
The first name Chaney brought up? Isaiah Wynn. An offensive lineman.
“A playmaker, that’s interesting,” Chaney said. “I think people associate playmakers with people who are creative when they have the ball in their hand. I think (Isaiah) Wynn is a tremendous playmaker in the front.”
“He is a lightweight kid with great feet and great football intellect and seldom gets beat,” Chaney said. “He makes plays when I don’t expect him to and gets leverage on a D-Lineman he shouldn’t. So he’s a great playmaker; we associate that with the ball.”
Chaney went on to say he did feel “okay” about having “enough” playmakers in the traditional sense of the term. But the only name he ever listed in his response was Wynn.
Forget for a moment whether that should make Georgia fans leery. (Clearly Chaney feels more than “okay” about a healthy Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, Terry Godwin and the litany of tight ends.) And in naming an offensive lineman, Chaney was trying to make a larger point about the term playmaker.
Still, it showed how highly Chaney and Georgia’s staff feel about Wynn, who has emerged as a key cog not only on the offensive line, but the offense as a whole.
Wynn is the first-team left tackle right now, but could end up at left guard if the coaches decide to start graduate transfer Tyler Catalina. Wynn said he’s been rotating in practice, confirming that the split is about 60-40 in favor of left tackle, as head coach Kirby Smart estimated it would be.
People usually think of a left tackle being a mammoth, minimum of 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds. Now here’s Wynn, listed at 6-2 and 280. So how does he make up for it?
“I think I’m just versatile,” Wynn said. “Great feet. Hands.”
Wynn’s combination of strength and athleticism draws raves from teammates and coaches, and it’s partly why he was originally ticketed for center. He was the first-team center through almost all of last year’s spring practice, then shifted to left guard afterwards. That’s where he started for most of last year, before switching to left tackle late in the season.
That was after the infamous Florida game. The move shifted John Theus to go to right tackle, and Kolton Houston from right tackle to right guard. Whether it was because the lineup just worked better that way, or because of Wynn at left tackle, the moves worked.
The best pass rusher he faced, at least in terms of reputation, was in the bowl: Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib, the Big Ten defensive player of the year and a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy.
He didn’t register a sack, or even a tackle, in Georgia’s 24-17 win over Penn State.
Then Sam Pittman became Georgia’s offensive line coach, bringing with him the reputation as someone who wanted big, physical offensive lineman. And presumably he still does. But he and Chaney quickly fell in love with what Wynn could bring, either at guard or tackle.
“I feel like I adjusted well, and now with the situation I walked into with coach Pittmn, I feel like he’s a great coach, helping me get there,” Wynn said. “Just teaching technique. He’s real big on technique, and that’s really all that you need out there. You have to have great feet, but you also have to have technique. Hand placement, and all of that.”
All of that may just add up to making plays, even if it’s not in the traditional sense of the term.