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Pre-spring analysis: Success of UGA’s offense centers on line

Brandon Kublanow started the first 10 games of last season at center but ended up starting at right guard for the final three.

ATHENS — We’ve been over the defense and most every aspect of special teams. Now we turn our attention to the offensive side of the ball. And to do that, naturally we should start where the ball gets snapped — at center.

The good news for Georgia is it has a lot of options at the position. The bad news is the Bulldogs enter the spring very unsettled at arguably the most important spot on the offensive line.

For the better part of a decade, there were a lot of unanswered questions on Georgia’s offensive line, but none of them centered on the man who snaps the football. All the way back to 2002, the Bulldogs transitioned smoothly from Russ Tanner to Nick Jones to Fernando Velasco to Ben Jones and then to David Andrews.

It appeared that transition was going similarly well this past season, before things got a little off kilter late in the year. Thanks to way it ended, now there’s some confusion about how they might start this time around.

Confused? We’ll try to clear it up.

CENTERS

  • Returning starter: Brandon Kublanow, Sr.
  • Others returning: Isaiah Wynn, Jr.; Dyshon Sims, Jr., Lamont Gaillard, RSo., Jake Edwards, RSo.; Sage Hardin, RFr., Pat Allen, RFr.
  • Early enrollees: Ben Cleveland, Fr.
  • On the way: Chris Barnes, Fr.; Solomon Kindley, Fr.
  • Analysis: Technically, Georgia lost its starting center off last year’s team. Senior Hunter Long, seldom-used before then, started the final three games of the 2015 season. Lest we forget in the wake of all the chaos from a coaching change, those were all UGA victories. Before that, Brandon Kublanow was the man at center. And he may be again. By all accounts, he was doing a pretty good job. But the Bulldogs needed to shore up and change their fortunes all along the offensive front, and that meant moving the versatile Kublanow from center to right guard. Now coach Sam Pittman is calling the shots on the offensive line, and nobody is sure how he might decide to handle it. Generally, Pittman has favored great size in his linemen. His Arkansas starters tilted the scales at 1,638 pounds last season, including 6-3, 322-pound center Mitch Smothers. Georgia’s top two candidates to play the position this year are smaller than that. Kublanow is listed at 6-3, 282 and Isaiah Wynn 6-2, 278. Meanwhile, both ended the season occupying a different spot in the starting five. So that could spell Pittman going in a whole different direction. Hence, the list of options above includes pretty much any lineman not already married to another position.
  • Bottom line: This is a really important decision that the Bulldogs will look to lock down early in spring practice. If there is any position on the line that does not absolutely require extraordinary size, it’s center. What it does require is someone who not only can block and protect, but who can recognize defenses and make calls for the rest of the line. For that reason it would appear again to fall to Kublanow and Wynn, both experienced veterans. In fact, it was the athletic Wynn who was thought to have the inside track last spring, only to lose the job to a more consistent shotgun snapper in Kublanow over the summer. Wynn ended last season as the starting left tackle, but it seems almost a certainty that Pittman will seek a dramatic increase in size at that spot. The Bulldogs have 16 linemen in all. Look for a bunch of them to get a shot here.

Next: Guards.

PRE-SPRING ANALYSES

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