ATHENS – Pat Allen was just a placeholder, the naysayers figured. He had been on Georgia’s football team for two years and didn’t sniff a starting spot, so why should he now? Once those bigger freshmen arrived, Allen would hit the bench again.
So far, the placeholder is holding his place. Allen is still the first-team left guard, less than two weeks from the season opener, as the third-year sophomore does his best to hold off the youngsters.
“Pat probably has made the most progress of the whole line,” sophomore defensive lineman Julian Rochester said. “Pat works hard, he chops his feet, great pass setter. He just does it all. He does what coach wants him to do.”
Freshmen Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson, as well as redshirt freshman Ben Cleveland, have drawn the most curiosity this preseason as they compete for one of the three vacated starting spots on Georgia’s line. Thomas appears closest to getting a starting spot, and at one point was working at left guard in place of Allen.
When he came to Georgia two years ago, Allen wasn’t a hyped prospect. He was a 3-star player, according to 247Sports, who played high school football in Maryland.
After redshirting his first season, Allen only appeared in two games in 2016, only once on the line. But when Georgia’s offseason program began in January, whispers started to emerge from the football facility: Pat Allen is starting to make a move.
Eventually, Allen was put at first-team left guard during spring practice. Even after starting on G-Day, he admitted he would still have to hold off the big-name incoming freshmen. He echoed that after practice on Tuesday.
“The competition is really real,” Allen said. “That’s what helps motivate me to keep going and make sure that I’m on the go. I’m making strides. I’m making calls. I know my technique. I know what form I need to be in. Plays I need to make. Reading the defense. Stuff like that. [The competition] keeps me aware.”
There’s precedent for an offensive lineman from Maryland going from not playing his first two seasons to starting at guard. That was Greg Pyke, the Baltimore-area native who came out of nowhere to be Georgia’s right guard in 2014, hold the spot the next year, then start every game at right tackle last year.
Allen still has plenty of work to do to hold the spot. The coaches demoted him for one week this preseason, during the second week, when they had Thomas at left guard. Allen spent the week working mostly at right tackle.
When Allen was back on the first team last week, however, it said a lot. Perhaps Thomas still moves back there, but right now he’s at first-team right tackle. Senior Dyshon Sims could figure in. But at this point Allen appears to be a slight favorite, at least to start.
“He hasn’t played but he’s been here for awhile,” senior tailback Nick Chubb said. “So maybe he can help us out with a little experience, because he went through spring and camp, so hopefully he can bring something to the table for us.”
Allen said he was between 295 and 300 pounds, where the coaches feel he’d be best. That doesn’t put him within 25 pounds of Thomas, Wilson or freshman guards Netori Johnson and Justin Shaffer, but so far what Allen is doing with that weight is working.
“I’m going to always work for Georgia,” Allen said. “I’m not from this state. But the love I received, even when I came in my freshman year, going from coach [Mark] Richt to coach [Kirby] Smart, regardless, I’m here for Georgia. I’m going to do everything I can to make Georgia great.”
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