ATHENS – In the idealized, possibly antiquated world of college football, Isaiah Wynn wouldn’t be Georgia’s starting left tackle. In this world, which might not exist anymore, every left tackle is supposed to be three inches taller and a dozen pounds heavier than the man who is set to protect Jacob Eason’s blind side this year.
“When you line up against Isaiah, you think, ‘Oh he’s a little short guy, he’s not going to be too bad,’” said Lorenzo Carter, the outside linebacker who goes up against Wynn in every Georgia practice. “I’m used to going up against a 6-6, 300-pounder. But man, he’s one of the toughest guys.”
There’s excitement this preseason about Georgia’s new offensive linemen, notably the very highly touted and very large tackles: freshmen Isaiah Wilson (6-7, 350) and Andrew Thomas (6-5, 338), not to mention redshirt freshman Ben Cleveland (6-6, 340) and junior college transfer D’Marcus Hayes (6-5, 315).
So why is Georgia set to start the comparatively petite Wynn (6-2, 305) at left tackle?
Because college football is changing, and the edge rushers look more like the sleek, athletic Carter – all 6-6 and 242 pounds of him – and the tackles need to be more athletic. If they can be big too, then great, and eventually one of the younger Bulldogs might fit that bill.
But for now, Georgia appears all in on Wynn.
“He’s definitely the anchor of the offensive line,” senior tight end Jeb Blazevich said. “We all trust him like he is 6-7. Shoot, it’s not even a thought for us.”
Georgia also isn’t exactly taking a huge risk in putting Wynn at left tackle. There’s data to support it.
Georgia is 6-0 with Wynn as its starting left tackle over the past two seasons. He started the final game there in 2016 – the Liberty Bowl win over TCU – and the final five games of the 2015 season.
Yes, those wins aren’t exactly just because Wynn was at left tackle, rather than his usual left guard position. For what it’s worth, Georgia exceeded its rushing yardage and total yardage against TCU last year with Wynn at left tackle, but had fewer yards in each category in the five games he was there in 2015.
The decision to play Wynn at left tackle might be more out of necessity than anything else. The two players who started at tackle last year, Tyler Catalina and Greg Pyke, were seniors who have moved on. Thomas and Wilson are just months out of high school. Cleveland and Hayes aren’t ready yet.
But Wynn’s athletic ability does really get underrated as a factor. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney opined last year that Wynn is a playmaker, just not at a position that people usually refer to players as such.
“You can freak out all day about how big and how heavy people are, but a great example is Isaiah McKenzie,” Blazevich said, alluding to the 5-foot-7 star who led the team in receiving last year. “You can only judge somebody off the body of work they produce. Especially with Isaiah [Wynn], being able to show he can do it. It doesn’t matter if he’s not 6-7 and 350 pounds. He’s a talented tackle, and he’s shown that by consistently performing.”
Maybe it’s not the ideal move. Maybe, in a reverse of the past two seasons, he ends up sliding back to guard.
But for now, he is entrenched at left tackle. Wynn said he’s not even going to cross-train at other spots. And he feels pretty good about it.
“Every since coach Pitt [offensive line coach Sam Pittman] got here, he’s been big on whoever is best is going to play,” Wynn said. “I think it really just comes down to if you can play. It doesn’t come down to your size, or how big or small you are. It’s if you can help or contribute to wins.”
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