When former offensive line coach Will Friend followed former offensive coordinator Mike Bobo to Colorado State, Georgia did not waste any time in hiring Rob Sale (LSU, '03) from McNeese State as Friend's replacement. This was a precarious time as Georgia was trying to hold onto some blue-chip position players that would surely be hedging a bit. Sale was officially hired on January 10 and immediately shored up those very same recruits for the 2015 cycle in an impressive fashion, which included Pat Allen, Sage Hardin, Sam Madden (flipped from Wisconsin), and a late surprise in former Ohio State commit Mirko Jurkovic - essentially holding together the key elements of a solid class.
Sale arrived on campus to a cupboard that is talented and, certainly by recent standards, full. Georgia has a tremendous amount of experience with some quality depth. Perhaps the biggest challenge Sale must face is replacing departed center David "Boss" Andrews.
Shocking, I know - Georgia is going to rely heavily on the run. Last season, the offensive line paved the way for an SEC-leading average of 258 yards per game (6.04 ypc average) and 38 rushing touchdowns which was ranked 11th nationally. In 13 games, the line yielded 17 sacks (1.3 per game).
Brandon Kublanow (Junior, 6'2, 290 Marietta - Walton- GA) is shifting from left guard to center and will carry on the tradition of excellence established by his predecessors Ben Jones and David Andrews. (In case you haven't seen the Ben Jones Fuddruckers commercial, go ahead and mash it. It's pretty awesome). After Isaiah Wynn struggled in spring practice with some high snaps, Kublanow was asked (or, perhaps, saw the writing and volunteered) to slide over to center. Kublanow has dedicated himself to the position spending hours in the film room and getting his technique down. He has all the character traits you need for the position: temperament (read: a mean, nasty straight-razor totin' streak), strength and intelligence. I think he is poised to excel.
BIG THINGS IN YEAR 2
Isaiah Wynn (Soph., 6-3, 284) will slide over to Kublanow's old spot at left guard. Wynn (St. Petersburg, FL - Lakewood) is another kid who has benefited greatly from off-season S&C and is described as "long and strong" with a mean streak. He acquitted himself well during his freshman campaign and that experience will pay huge dividends as he comes into 2015 as a young veteran.
THE BEST FOR LAST?
It seems like John Theus (Senior, 6-6, 315 The Bolles School - Jacksonville, FL) has been in the program forever, starting as a true freshman and going through the wars over the last 3 seasons. An All-SEC First Team selection, Theus has played in 40 straight games and will be starting out at left tackle for the second consecutive season. John has always had the ideal frame to play tackle - length and lower body strength, but by all accounts he - once again a familiar, wonderful theme - has changed his body in the weight room and is simply more muscular (mass) and stronger - particularly in the upper body than he was certainly as a freshman and perhaps even a season ago. His footwork has improved and simply put he could be headed towards his best season in the Red and Black. Depending on his performance in 2015, Theus could find himself as an extremely high draft pick come next April.
STOCK UP. WAY, WAY UP...
There are some NFL Draft Analysts that believe Greg Pyke is the top interior offensive lineman in college football right now. - Jake Rowe, 247Sports.com
Greg Pyke (RS Senior, 6-5, 315 Baltimore, MD) had a breakout season in 2014 and will only improve heading into the new year. He's a very athletic big man with great feet (played lacrosse in high school) and simply finishes blocks. A member of the 2012 class, Pyke red shirted his true-freshman season and would have an additional year of eligibility, but will, in all likelihood, opt for the NFL next season where he will certainly be one of the first guards off the board. Pyke has wonderful technique with a desire to stone his mirror.
Queue it up to the 1:09 mark. It's a beautiful thing...
TAKE A BOW, MR. HOUSTON
A 6th year is a rare thing, but the familiar story of Kolton Houston, a member of the 2010 class, dictates this. Occupying right tackle, Houston (6-5, 290 - Buford) became a fixture at right tackle last season, starting all 13 games after starting 6 games in 2013. Mark Hocke's S&C program has paid dividends in the off season as Houston has gained more mass and upper body strength which bodes well on the dawn of a new season.
Hunter Long (Graduate, 6-4, 305 Memphis (Briarcrest) TN), will spell Brandon Kublanow at center but is versatile enough to play any interior line position. He played in 9 games in 2014.
Aulden Bynum (RS Soph., 6-5, 275 - Valwood School, Valdosta, GA) has been progressing and should get some time spelling John Theus at left tackle.
Kendall Baker (RS Freshman, 6-6, 315 - Marist, Atlanta) has got good size and is poised to rotate in first off the bench probably at right tackle, but could play either.
Dyshon Sims (Soph., 6-4, 297 - Lowndes Co.) played in 8 games in 2014 and continues to develop in the S&C program. Sims should get plenty of reps in 2014 at either guard.
Lamont Gaillard (RS Freshman, 6-2, 300, Pine Forest H.S., Fayetteville, NC) as you recall was recruited as a defensive linemen, but has made the transition to offensive guard.
Jake Edwards (RS Freshman, 6-4, 290, Heard Co., Franklin, GA) was injured and took a red shirt last season, but has recovered and is working to get back. Probably has the frame for tackle.
There's a lot to like regarding this unit, but what strikes me is the amount of youth behind the upperclassmen. It will be essential that Georgia is in position to play as many guys as they can, when they can to continue to build the experience going forward, particularly at tackle as we are losing Theus and Houston at season's end.
Word out of camp today (August 11) is that late addition to the 2015 class, Mirko Jirkovic, sustained a significant knee injury that required season-ending surgery. A full recovery is expected, but that's a sad way to have to spend what would certainly have been a red-shirt season. All the best in your recovery, big fella.