Own the East: Georgia Bulldogs believe they have blindside covered with Andrew Thomas
GEORGIA’S OWN #7: ANDREW THOMAS
ATHENS – You don’t hear much about Andrew Thomas. For the Georgia Bulldogs, that’s a great thing.
Thomas is Georgia’s undisputed starting left tackle, and that in itself is saying something. If he does nothing else, coach Kirby Smart first and foremost preaches competition at every position on the field. But apparently there isn’t anybody currently on the Bulldogs’ roster who can hang with the 6-foot-5, 320-pound sophomore from Lithonia.
“Andrew’s doing a good job,” Smart said recently. “We’re just trying to build some depth. Who are the (other) guys that can play left?”
While it seems unquestioned that Thomas is the best option for the Bulldogs at left tackle, there is no guarantee that Georgia can replicate the level the play out of the position it got last season.
Georgia fans got to see what exemplary left-tackle play looked like last season from Isaiah Wynn. As a senior, Wynn made the transition from left guard to left tackle and did it so well that he earned All-SEC and All-America honors. More telling, Wynn was drafted in the first round by the New England Patriots, who intended to play the 6-foot-3, 310-pound converted guard at tackle before an Achilles tendon injury in preseason sidelined him for the year.
Clearly he is a special talent on the offensive line. As a true freshman last season, the Pace Academy graduate started every game at right tackle last season. He did it well enough to earn Freshman All-America honors.
But while move from right tackle to left tackle is only about 10 yards away in distance, it’s miles away in terms of what it takes to play the positon at a high level in the SEC.
Nobody knows that better than Thomas, who played left tackle throughout his high school career.
“Basically, it’s the mental aspect of it,” Thomas said of the most difficult part of the transition. “I mean, the plays and everything are the same. I just flip sides. The footwork and everything like that is what I’m working on and that’s a process right now. I’m just, like, breaking it down and trying to build my muscle memory on the left side.”
Apparently the process is going quite well. Senior defensive end David Marshall recently raved about job Thomas and Georgia’s offensive line is doing.
“Those guys are big, man,” Marshall said. “And they’re good, too. I think they’re going to be even better than they were last year.”
It helps that this has always been the plan for Thomas. He came in the same class ballyhooed recruiting class that also brought 6-foot-7, 345-pound 5-star prospect Isaiah Wilson. Wilson was ranked the No. 3 tackle recruit in America and was generally thought to be the Bulldogs’ heir apparent at left tackle. But ultimately the transition from Brooklyn, N.Y., to the August heat of Georgia was too great and Wilson ended up redshirting.
Now Wilson appears set to start at right tackle this season. And Thomas appears as though he was probably under-ranked as a recruit. A U.S. Army All-American, he was considered the No. 45 overall prospect in the nation, according to 247Sports.com’s composite. He was the No. 9 offensive tackle in America and the No. 5 overall prospect in Georgia.
The Bulldogs knew they had a special talent as soon as Thomas arrived on campus. While he played right tackle all last year, Georgia started repping him at left tackle in practice and line coach Sam Pittman started to talk to him making the move permanent after the season.
“I started getting some reps with the second- and third-team in practice and that has helped make the transition smooth,” Thomas said.
The only area in which Georgia’s coaches want to see Thomas made some significant improvement is in the area of leadership. Or, more specifically, vocal leadership.
Thomas is incredibly quiet-spoken by personality. But he possesses an incredible internal competitive passion and the Bulldogs would like to see him use that to motivate others at times.
“I’m working on being more of a leader,” Thomas said. “I’m trying to speak up more, first with the offensive line and then in the team aspect of things.”
Wynn proudly fulfilled that leadership role for the Bulldogs last year. But Thomas is more interested in playing like Wynn than he to act and sound like him.
“Obviously, it’s hard to replace a guy like that,” Thomas said. “But Lamont (Gaillard) has stepped up as our leader right now and he’s doing a great job with it.”
As for that aforementioned depth Georgia is trying to build behind him, redshirt junior D’Marcus Hayes generally works with the second-team there. Also senior left guard Kendall Baker and freshman Cade Mayes have been cross-training behind Thomas.
But barring injury, Thomas is Georgia’s man at left tackle. And while being a vocal leader doesn’t come natural to him, he certainly sounds like one.
“What made us a great team last year was how we came in and attacked practice,” Thomas said. “We practiced hard and physical so the games can be easy. That’s what we’re doing now.”
If Thomas plays at left tackle lioke he did at right tackle last year, he’ll be a big reason Georgia could “Own the East.”