Georgia offensive lineman Austin Blaske (58) during a game against Samford on Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Tony Walsh

Austin Blaske, Earnest Greene and what happens next for Georgia football at offensive tackle

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Austin Blaske, Earnest Greene and what happens next for Georgia football at offensive tackle

ATHENS — Members of the Georgia media had been assured Broderick Jones was on his way. The offensive tackle took a number of meetings at his pro day, as NFL teams picking high in this year’s draft wanted to see what the offensive tackle had to offer.

Jones figures to be the latest Georgia offensive tackle that goes on to NFL success, as Jamaree Salyer, Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wynn did before him.

Before Jones left the building, he reminisced on his time at Georgia. The Bulldogs will have to find a new star tackle. It’s one of the biggest questions surrounding Georgia this spring, as the Bulldogs also have to replace the ever-reliable Warren McClendon at the other tackle spot.

Helping matters is that Georgia brings back Amarius Mims. He’s an obvious replacement for one of the tackle positions. He towers over the rest of Georgia’s offensive linemen in addition to being one of the more fluid athletes on the team.

The other tackle position is a much more open competition.

“We’ll have a lot of guys competing at tackle, but we have a pretty high bar for what the standard is at offensive tackle at Georgia,” Kirby Smart said. “Those two guys last year played really well and we’ll have a good competition this year.”

The most interesting option is Earnest Greene. Both McClendon and Jones praised Greene when speaking at the NFL combine. He wowed last spring for the Bulldogs.

Related: Georgia redshirt freshman Earnest Greene tabbed next up by departing OTs

The problem is that he wasn’t able to continue that into the fall due to a back injury. Smart began spring practice by giving an update on Greene’s health.

“Earnest is in a good spot. Thank goodness Ron(Courson) had the foresight to have the surgery. I think it was October 10th maybe or -- sometime in October he had the surgery in the thought that we would get him back for spring.

“His conditioning level may not be exactly where we need it to be, but he has been working out with the team. He has been doing offseason workouts with the team. He has been able to do all the stuff we require him to do, so he will go out there and compete.”

It’s important to heed Smart’s caution there with regard to Greene. While many may want to pencil him in as the starting left tackle, he’s got a long way to go between now and the opener against UT-Martin. Fortunately, he’s got time and plenty of practices to work his way into that job.

Working against Greene is Austin Blaske. If Greene represents upside and potential, Blaske should be seen as the answer of the present. If Georgia were to play a game tomorrow, Blaske would probably be the team’s starting left tackle.

Blaske was a late addition to the 2020 class. He lacked the high-profile recruiting profile of Broderick Jones or Tate Ratledge coming out of Guyton, Ga. But he’s gotten better at Georgia each year and worked himself into being the Swiss Army Knife of the offensive line.

In addition to competing for one of the offensive tackle spots, Blaske is also Georgia’s backup center. Even in the event he doesn’t win the offensive tackle job, he’s going to play a role for Georgia this season in some capacity.

“He worked at tackle,” Smart said. “He worked while Warren McClendon was out there for a while. He got a lot of reps at tackle. He competes at tackle. He is really athletic. He can flip over and play at center. I’ve seen him and know he is a very viable candidate to compete for one of those starting jobs.”

Smart also mentioned fellow 2020 signee Chad Lindberg as someone competing for the job at one of the tackle spots. A fifth candidate is incoming freshman Monroe Freeling. He is the most recent 5-star offensive tackle to sign with Georgia, as he was the No. 32 overall player in the 2023 signing class.

Freeling is raw and will need to add strength if he is to see the field for Georgia. Thomas and Mims are the only two offensive tackles who didn’t redshirt as freshmen under Smart.

Freeling is going to have to be very good very quickly to follow a similar path.

“He has really done well in workouts. He is extremely flexible. He is tough. He can run,” Smart said. “He has great length. He has added some weight. But we haven’t seen the guy play football, so I can’t go and say what he can and can’t do.”

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