A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….
Ok, actually it was in North Florida in the early 2000s, I was talking one one of the greatest coaching interviews of all-time, Mike Pittman, about his team’s underdog chances of playing Florida’s top-ranked team, Madison County.
“I know how to beat Madison County….I just don’t have the players to beat Madison County with.”
If you want a look into the mind of Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman these days, it’s the exact opposite of that line of thinking.
Going into his third year in Athens. Pittman does not just have a first-line group that he can make do with or adapt into the type of players that he wants. Rather, he has a group that can ensure Georgia’s offensive will have a banner year - regardless of the health of D’Andre Swift. Elijah Holyfield, and others. In a span of a year, offensive line went from a point of question to certainty in Athens, There’s no way around it.
Using the readily available roster info, Georgia’s offensive line averages 322 pounds. Of all the ways that Georgia has crafted itself after the Crimson Elephants, none are more glaring that the emphasis up front with an eye toward huge, big and tall offensive linemen heck bent on imposing their will on an opponent.
That’s not to say Pittman’s charges don’t have work to do. Between the departed backside protection of Isaiah Wynn along with Dyshon Sims and Pat Allen, holes have to be plugged on a group with four starters back and 69 combined career starts.
It’s hard to pinpoint Georgia’s true starting line since guys get swapped around so much, but if there was one, it’d roughly be Lamont Gaillard at center, Ben Cleveland and Kendall Baker at right end left guard with right and left tackle being filled out by Isaiah Wilson and Andrew Thomas.
Toss in newcomers like Trey Hill and Jamaree Salyer on the inside and experienced reserves in the form of Cade Mays and Justin Shaffer at tackle along with Solomon Kindley and Warren Ericson on the inside, and options are aplenty on the Georgia offensive line.
The Bulldogs don’t have only a core of five or six able to pave the way up front for whatever scheme that Jim Chaney is devising. They have an assortment of guys that even if they are not all ready to go against Austin Peay, they will be ready by late-season (see Ben Cleveland’s emergence last year).
With time to fine-tune a top unit, Pittman does not only have the luxury of settling on starters, but there’s also leverage to cross-train linemen for what Pittman, Chaney and company want to do.
How good is this group? Just consider that there are legitimate five-star talents on the third team offensive line. That does not just mean depth in case of injuries. It also equates to any level of contentment as a Georgia offensive lineman being cast out the back door.
Readers who followed the Gym Dogs of Yoculan certainly know the model. It does not matter how elite you were the last time out. If you don’t produce in practice, you lose your spot to another young and hungry competitor behind you.
That mentality may have been foreign a few years ago in Athens.
Now, it’s the new normal up front.