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Xavier Truss emerges as Georgia football still searches for best offensive line combination
Xavier Truss knows he was not perfect against Tennessee. The redshirt sophomore told reporters on Wednesday there were a number of things he could clean up and improve on from his performance this past Saturday against Tennessee.
His head coach identified some of those areas earlier in the week as well.
“Xavier’s biggest thing is that he can carry over and focus and concentrate to do the things he has to do and really play with a lot of intensity,” Kirby Smart said. “So that’s one of the biggest things with Xavier is his dependability, his snap count and assignments. "
Of course, Truss can somewhat be forgiven. It was the first time he had played snaps of significance at the guard position for Georgia, as he entered the game for Warren Ericson. And up until Tate Ratledge’s injury against Clemson, Truss had never even played the position.
“The transition to guard, it took some getting used to at first, I’ve got to be ready to play wherever I’m needed to play and I don’t think height is an excuse,” Truss said. “Last year, we had Ben (Cleveland) who’s about my height and there was no excuse. Ben didn’t have an excuse so I can’t, I’ve got to just get in and play.”
As a guard, Truss towers over Ericson and Justin Shaffer, bringing some size and physicality to Georgia’s offensive line. That’s something the group has missed since Ratledge suffered a broken foot on the opening drive of the season for the Bulldogs.
Truss went into the game because Ericson had been battling the flu, which he has since overcome. But the insertion of Truss into the lineup shows that even 10 games into the season, this offensive line still has room to improve and get better.
Despite discussing the desire to find the best five-man combination since August, Smart still hasn’t found what he’s looking for.
That’s what makes Truss’ ascension so interesting.
“We think about that all the time,” Smart said. “We are going to put the best five that give us the best chance to win out there. It’s not as simple as it sounds. There’s a lot that goes into that that I don’t discuss.”
Following Ratledge’s injury, Georgia had settled on an offensive line of Jamaree Salyer, Shaffer, Sedrick Van Pran, Ericson and Warren McClendon. Then prior to the Missouri game, Salyer went down with a foot injury. Georgia went with Broderick Jones at left tackle, with the redshirt freshman starting the last two games. Jones also filled in for Salyer against Auburn when the latter went down with an ankle injury.
Indications are Salyer is getting better and could possibly play this weekend. He’s more likely to go back to his left tackle spot, as Georgia feels he is a better option at left tackle than he is at either of the guard spots at this point. Jones is very much a tackle and will not move inside, as many hoped Salyer would clear a path for the promising Jones.
As for the guard position, Truss stands to make things interesting. Smart knows the Rhode Island native has a lot of ability. Truss started at left tackle for Georgia last season against Cincinnati, though it was not the strongest of debuts.
Smart also readily admits Truss doesn’t have as much experience at guard as Ericson does. Truss has no problem asking Ericson for help and Ericson had no issues providing tips to Truss against Tennessee.
“I knew if I had any questions or if I wasn’t 100 percent confident in something, he’d steer me in the right direction,” Truss said. “I would listen to him when he would tell me things I need to work on. He helped a lot.”
Truss brought up confidence a lot when he spoke on Wednesday. It’s understandable given the adjustments he’s had to make. First from going from small private school Rhode Island football to the SEC. That would explain why he didn’t see the field early in his time at Georgia.
On top of that, he went from starting Georgia’s bowl game to learning a new position in order to get onto the field. It’s been a work in progress for Truss in his career so far and gaining confidence has been important for Truss.
His teammates though have seen him take noticeable strides and he’s now put himself in a position to where he can help this team.
“I feel like he stepped up. He’s got a better mindset,” Shaffer said of Truss. “It started back in camp, just giving him that confidence. I had to sit out and wait my turn just like he did. Just have to keep giving him that confidence and being able to come in when he needs it.
Georgia can afford to experiment in its next two games against Charleston Southern and Georgia Tech, given the Bulldogs will be massive favorites. But Georgia will need its five best offensive linemen on the field in the SEC championship game, most likely against Alabama.