It looks like graduate transfer offensive tackle Tyler Catalina has now actually graduated from the University of Rhode Island, clearing the way for him to begin graduate studies (and football studies) at the University of Georgia. Catalina has been a standout at Rhode Island, but it remains to be seen whether his skills will translate well against SEC competition. At 6’6, 295 pounds he doesn’t exactly look like a surefire first rounder stepping off the bus. But what the 23 year old redshirt senior does have, what the Bulldogs could really use up front, is experience.
He started all 33 games of his Rhode Island career following a freshman redshirt season, 12 at right tackle as a redshirt freshman, then 21 at left tackle as a sophomore and junior. Under Mark Richt Georgia struggled at times just to have enough warm, upright bodies on the offensive line to get things done. It wasn’t specifically Richt’s fault (except to the extent he allowed Neil Callaway to offer guys before getting a shoulder MRI done), and it seemed to improve over time.
But in 2016 the bodies won’t be lacking for Sam Pittman’s first season coaching the Bulldog big uglies. Georgia should enter fall camp with 15 scholarship offensive linemen and at least 5 walk-ons capable of providing needed depth. The question will be how quickly they can get the unit that showed some promise during spring to finish gelling. Another bit of good news is that while the Red and Black defense may have its hands full in the opener with the North Carolina offense (which features three receivers who could go in the first four rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft), the Tarheel defensive front has just as much to prove. The ‘Heels surrendered 5.13 yards per rush in 2015, a total which was perhaps inflated by the 645 yards (yes, you read that right) surrendered on the ground to Baylor in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
With the Nicholls State Colonels coming to town the following week, it may be week three when the ‘Dawgs travel to Faurot Field to take on Missouri (also in a bit of a rebuilding mode) before we know what kind of horses Pittman has under the hood.