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Pre-spring analysis: The big question at guards

Isaiah Wynn started eight games at left guard last year before shifting to left tackle. Will he move back to guard?

ATHENS – Anytime there’s a coaching change, almost every position will have an offseason of some mystery, and perhaps a complete rewriting of what had been a years-long plan.

Nowhere on the Georgia football team could that be more the case than with the interior offensive line.

Kirby Smart wants bigger lineman. Sam Pittman, the new offensive line coach, has always wanted that, too. They, along with offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, have also surely watched tape from last year, when the run blocking was often a struggle, and thus so was the running game.

That means every position comes under review, especially two spots that the previous staff felt the need to revamp on the fly last year.

Greg Pyke, who was so entrenched at right guard that he was a candidate to leave a year early for the NFL draft, was instead benched for two games. Isaiah Wynn, the starting left guard for most of the season, was switched out to left tackle, with Kolton Houston shifting back inside, with center Brandon Kublanow and reserve Dyshon Sims also getting looks at guard.

Houston is gone now, after a career that seemed to date back to the Wally Butts era, but everyone else is back and has been trying to impress the new staff in offseason workouts.

Which they had, at least as of last week.

“What I do like is our work ethic on the offensive line,” Smart said during his remarks at the Macon Touchdown Club. “Those guys are buying in and working hard. Working really hard. I’m fired up about the work they’re doing.”

But …

“I wish there were more of them and I wish they were bigger,” Smart added. “But they are working hard, and that’s all I can ask of them right now.”

There haven’t been many indications or leaks yet on what the new staff is thinking about the two guard spots. But let’s take some educated shots:

LEFT GUARD

  • Returning starter: Isaiah Wynn, Jr.
  • Others returning: Dyshon Sims, Jr.; Lamont Gaillard, Soph.; Jake Edwards, Soph.; Aulden Bynum, Jr.; Kendall Baker, R-Soph.; Pat Allen, R-Fr.; Mirko Jurkovic, R-Fr.; Sage Hardin, R-Fr.; Sam Madden, R-Fr.
  • Early enrollees: Ben Cleveland, Fr.
  • On the way: Chris Barnes, Fr.; Solomon Kindley, Fr.
  • Analysis: Given Pittman and Smart’s desire for size on the line, every lineman is listed as a candidate for guard. Wynn started the first eight games at left guard, then moved to left tackle for the final five games. It’s hard to see Wynn (listed at 6-foot-2, 278 pounds) staying at tackle under the new administration. Sims (6-5, 293), Gaillard (6-2, 298) and Edwards (6-4, 284) would also seem likely to stay at guard, unless they’re putting on a ton of weight and muscle. After that it becomes a matter of just how big does Pittman want his line to be? Allen has been ticketed for tackle since he signed, but does his weight (he’s listed at 6-4, 297) make him a candidate for guard? Does Pittman even consider moving Cleveland (6-6, 345), or Madden (6-6, 346)? Jurkovic and Bynum are both 6-5, but they’re also listed below 280 pounds, so do they move inside as well? Bottom line: The left guard spot would mostly seem to depend on Wynn. For all that we seem to be obsessing over the potential new philosophy, history tells us that coaches at this level tend to make similar evaluations. Wynn, if he shows well this spring, has a good chance to start somewhere, either left guard or center, where he played last spring. Sims will get a long look as well, and after that it becomes a matter of who else is in the mix. The wild card is Kublanow or Pyke being shifted over to left guard.

RIGHT GUARD

  • Returning starter: Greg Pyke, Sr.; Brandon Kublanow, Sr.
  • Others returning: Dyshon Sims, Jr.; Lamont Gaillard, Soph.; Jake Edwards, Soph.; Aulden Bynum, Jr.; Kendall Baker, R-Soph.; Pat Allen, R-Fr.; Mirko Jurkovic, R-Fr.; Sage Hardin, R-Fr.; Sam Madden, R-Fr.
  • Early enrollees: Ben Cleveland, Fr.
  • On the way: Chris Barnes, Fr.; Solomon Kindley, Fr.
  • Analysis: The long-term plan once may have included Pyke (6-6, 313) moving to left tackle, but his struggles last year precluded that. It still can’t be ruled out this year. Otherwise, the same names we listed at left guard apply here. You could see where the new staff would love to stack the interior line with big players – but as Smart alluded, they don’t quite have the size at tackle to do that.
  • Bottom line: Some combination of Pyke, Kublanow and Wynn seem most likely to fill out the interior line – unless one or two of them are needed at tackle, which probably isn’t Smart and Pittman’s ideal scenario. Given Smart’s public statements, they will likely want a few of the younger, bigger guys to step up at the vacant two tackle spots. But if they don’t, then Pyke and/or Wynn may have to move out there, opening up the middle for some new names.

Next: Offensive tackles.

PRE-SPRING ANALYSES

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