ATHENS — Kirby Smart doesn’t have time to read preseason magazines, but he would surely be firing off a “thank you” note to Phil Steele if he did.
The popular preseason magazine ranked the Michigan offensive line as the best in the nation entering the 2022 season, one spot ahead of a determined Georgia group.
It’s a safe assumption those rankings will make their rounds in the new $80 million football building, adding more fuel to a fire that has been burning since last season.
The Wolverines led the nation with just 34 tackles for loss surrendered in 2021, with seven (including four sacks) coming in a 34-11 Orange Bowl CFP Semifinal loss to Georgia.
The Bulldogs’ offensive line allowed just two tackles for loss to the Wolverines and no sacks.
By that point, however, Michigan had won the coveted Joe Moore Award, which has gone to the best offensive line in college football since its inception in 2015.
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Georgia has never won the award, and the fact Michigan won it last season was motivation for the Bulldogs entering the CFP Orange Bowl Semifinal matchup.
“Their (Michigan) offensive line, the Joe Moore Award, you know what, somebody that made that decision that’s a lot smarter than me,” Smart said after Georgia handled the Wolverines 34-11.
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Van Pran anchors the UGA line from the center position, with third-year sophomore Broderick Jones at left tackle, and fourth-year redshirt junior Warren McClendon at right tackle.
Sophomore Amarius Mims, a former 5-star prospect who went in and out of the portal to visit Florida State in the spring, will surely also get work at tackle this season.
Warren Ericson is one of only four returning game captains and will compete at guard, where redshirt sophomore Tate Ratledge hopes to be healthy enough to return by the opener after suffering a season-ending foot injury in the 2021 opening game with Clemson.
Junior Xavier Truss got the first-team work at guard in the spring with Ratledge still out and redshirt sophomore Devin Willock and redshirt freshman Micah Morris have also done enough to earn public praise. Redshirt sophomore Austin Blaske is another talent with the versatility to play more than one position.
It’s an offensive line room that’s as deep and talented as any, and with veteran offensive line coach Stacy Searels taking over for Matt Luke, it promises to maintain a chip on the shoulder.