ATHENS – Pat Allen sat almost alone in Georgia’s locker room after G-Day, as media members converged on bigger names. They may not have recognized Allen, who’s done few interviews over the past two years, mainly because there wasn’t much reason.
There was this time. Allen became the first-team left guard early in spring and didn’t relinquish the job.
“I was just staying hungry, staying patient. It was really big,” Allen said. “Coach (Kirby) Smart trusting me, and coach (Sam) Pittman believing in me, and our whole group believing in each other. It was really big.”
Allen and his crew got all of about five minutes to enjoy it. It was a good spring for Georgia’s offensive line … right up until G-Day.
The first-team O-line gave up five sacks and struggled to run the ball, a performance that left the (announced) crowd of 66,000-plus with the distinct impression that this will not be the first-team offensive line when Georgia plays a real game.
Bring on the newcomers, you could sense people saying: Isaiah Wilson, the five-star offensive tackle recruit who was watching from the sideline? Get ready.Andrew Thomas, the four-star offensive tackle? Netori Johnson, the four-star guard? Both better get ready too.
D’Marcus Hayes, the junior college transfer who played second-team left tackle on G-Day? Just give him more seasoning, along with Ben Cleveland, the redshirt freshman who sat out the spring game with an undisclosed injury.
But is it really back to the drawing board?
Smart acknowledged it didn’t look good, but issued qualifiers: The format of the spring game, with a running clock and emphasis on four-minute drills, took away the chance to use many good running plays. And with all those passing plays, of course there would be more sacks.
More caveats on both sides: Nick Chubb and Sony Michel hardly touched the ball. But the defense was missing three key players too: Trent Thompson, Roquan Smith and Dominick Sanders.
“I would’ve liked to have ran it better with the No. 1 offense, which we didn’t do, which we have to improve on, we have to be better at,” Smart said, adding at another point: “I didn’t see the same physicality from the offensive line. But I have to be honest, we handcuffed them some. That was not the intent of the day.”
The question now is whether G-Day was a wake-up call to Smart, Pittman and Jim Chaney. It’s probably not that dire. G-Day was just one of 15 practices, one of three scrimmages. It doesn’t undo what everyone agrees was real progress this spring for the front five.
Isaiah Wynn, for instance, vowed that he will be the left tackle this season no matter what, and Smart basically echoed that. Lamont Gaillard has received little competition at center. Solomon Kindley had a good spring at right guard.
Dyshon Sims, who held down right tackle in the spring, didn’t have as strong a G-Day. Does Wilson take that spot upon his arrival? And would Sims then move elsewhere, such as left guard? Or would Sims just be ready off the bench as a utility man?
Pittman is renowned nationally for his skill at developing offensive linemen, and the buzz this spring created a lot of optimism. Perhaps the lesson from G-Day is that it should still be tempered: Don’t believe there’s been real progress until you see it in a real game against a high-level opponent.
Allen, for all his spring success, seemed to know his job wasn’t secure yet.
“I’ll be competing … Just stay patient and trust in God. Just mainly focusing on the things I can control,” Allen said. “No matter what, I’m here for the team. I’m here to better my teammates, for them to better me. Just overall just to work and make the program better. So those guys that are coming in, and even those guys we have now, no matter where they put me I’m just going to keep working.”