ATHENS – While it may not be quite finalized yet, Georgia’s much-discussed starting offensive line is becoming more clear.
The starting lineup was the same on Wednesday as it had been since the beginning of last week, and after practice head coach Kirby Smart said they were closer to knowing.
“We feel good about the first five we’ve got,” Smart said, while also adding that “there’s still some battles in there.”
The remaining battle for a starting spot appears to be at right tackle, where freshman Andrew Thomas has been going with the first team the past two weeks. But redshirt freshman Ben Cleveland is also getting some first-team snaps.
Smart termed the right tackle competition as “neck and neck.”
“Ben’s competing hard. I think Andrew’s competing hard,” Smart said. “They both go there and compete and have done a good job. So time will tell. A couple more practices will hone things in.”
The two spots that were basically set entering the preseason were senior Isaiah Wynn at left tackle and junior Lamont Gaillard at center. Redshirt freshman Solomon Kindley appeared to cement the right guard spot early on in camp, and sophomore Pat Allen seems to have nailed down left guard, at least to start the season.
The other questions, according to Smart:
- Backup left tackle, where freshman Isaiah Wilson and senior Dyshon Sims have worked during camp.
- Backup center, where Sims and junior walk-on Sean Fogarty have been getting reps.
- The fourth guard. Junior Kendall Baker has emerged as the third guard, the top backup at both spots, leaving Sims and freshmen Netori Johnson and Justin Shaffer. (Wilson and Thomas have also gotten looks at guard.)
The offensive line has been the most closely-watched area on the team, after it was the weak link on last year’s team, and then lost three senior starters. There will be a new starter at each position, as Wynn and Gaillard were at different spots for most of last year.
Thomas has been the revelation at preseason, earning raves from teammates. Sophomore defensive lineman Julian Rochester joined the chorus on Tuesday night, calling Thomas “amazing.”
But Smart, as a coach is wont to do, tried to issue some caution on Wednesday.
“You know Andrew Thomas is a very mature kid, he’s obviously done a good job. But let’s don’t get ahead of ourselves,” Smart said. “He was at the high school prom three-four months ago. He’s done a good job. He competes, he comes to work every day. I would hate for you guys to give him some award before he even plays a down.”