Georgia post-spring primer: Offensive line

semerson@macon.comMay 6, 2014 

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Georgia tail back Brendan Douglas (#22) gets help from, l-r, offensive guard Brandon Kublanow (#54), center David Andrews (#61) and offensive guard Watts Dantzler (#78) on his fourth quarter touchdown against Appalachian State Saturday.

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The latest in our series looking at the Georgia football team, position-by-position, after spring practice and before summer workouts begin.

LEFT TACKLE
Starter:
John Theus, Jr.
Top backup(s): Mark Beard, Sr.
Also in the room: Zach DeBell, Jr.; Xzavier Ward, Jr.
On the way: Dyshon Sims, Fr.; Kendall Baker, Fr.
The skinny: Theus is virtually assured a starting spot, and it will probably be left tackle – but it’s not absolutely certain. Beard is still getting a shot to win the left tackle job, which would result in some dominoes falling: Theus back to right tackle, then … well, we can get to that later. But the news this spring was Theus being in the mix for the first time at left tackle, and then seeming to make the jump that has long been expected of the former five-star recruit. If he can keep it going into the preseason and then the real season, that would be huge for Georgia’s line, and offense in general.
What happens next: Beard briefly decided to transfer before spring, admitting later that playing time was a factor. He seemed happy with the chance he was given this spring, so until further notice we proceed under the assumption that he’s sticking around. This preseason it will largely be up to Beard to determine if he’s worthy of being one of the top five, which would set off those dominoes. Also, keep an eye on the newcomers, especially Sims, as the coaches have vowed the freshmen will get a chance to play.

LEFT GUARD
Starter:
Brandon Kublanow, Soph., or Beard
Top backup(s): Kublanow or Beard
Also in the room: Josh Cardiello, R-Fr.; Aulden Bynum, R-Soph.; Glenn Welch, R-Fr. (walk-on); Thomas Swilley, R-Fr. (walk-on).
On the way: Isaiah Wynn, Fr.; Jake Edwards, Fr.
The skinny: This is the spot to watch, as offensive line coach Will Friend made clear at the conclusion of spring practice. Kublanow seemed to finish last season with the inside track to win one of the vacant guard spots, but he was leapfrogged by Greg Pyke, now seemingly entrenched at right guard. Kublanow could still win this other spot, or Beard might win it. Friend termed it as up in the air, and that means you also can’t rule out one of the freshmen getting into the mix this season.
What happens next: Kublanow and Beard will battle it out as soon as preseason practice begins, and it’s hard to say either one has the edge right now. Of course it might not be either of them. If the coaches decide they’re more comfortable with Beard at left tackle, that would set off the dominoes resulting in (probably) Kolton Houston at left guard, where he played some last year. Basically, a lot of things can still happen at this spot between now and the Clemson game.
Coachspeak: “The (left) guard was here and there with people. I guess that’s why you practice. I guess you gotta figure it out in August.” – Friend.

CENTER
Starter:
David Andrews, Sr.
Top backup(s): Hunter Long, Jr., or Cardiello.
On the way: None.
The skinny: Andrews is the unofficial captain of the offensive line and will be a third-year starter. No surprises there. The greater intrigue is who becomes his top backup, because that has implications for 2015. Long has served as the top backup for more than a year now, while also getting practice time at the guard spots. Cardiello, while spending most of his time at guard, also got a look at center in spring practice.
What happens next: Keep an eye on the competition for the No. 2 job. This year we know that barring injury it will be Andrews snapping to Hutson Mason. But it will be two different names snapping to each other to start the 2015 season, and both of those names remain to be determined.

RIGHT GUARD
Starter:
Greg Pyke, Soph.
Top backup(s): Kublanow
Also in the room: Bynum, Cardiello, Welch or Swilley.
On the way: Wynn and Edwards.
The skinny: Pyke winning this spot was the story of the spring on the offensive line. (Theus moving to left tackle was the story of the pre-spring.) Of course there’s still time for Pyke to lose the job, but if he carries his spring performance into August he’ll line up at right guard for the first snap against Clemson.
What happens next: If anybody has a chance to supplant Pyke it’s probably Kublanow or even Watts Dantzler, but each has been concentrating on other positions. Perhaps the coaches move one of them back to right guard if Pyke provides an opening or gets hurt. Bynum, Cardiello or one of the freshmen will also get a look.
Coachspeak: “(Pyke) has always been a very good athlete. He’s a powerful guy, he’s the best athlete of the whole group. And the light kinda started clicking a little bit at the end of Novemeber. Then he had a really outstanding bowl practice. .. And it just kinda carried on over until winter workouts. He was outstanding in the mat drills, and had a good spring.” - Friend

RIGHT TACKLE
Starter:
Kolton Houston, Sr.
Top backup(s): Watts Dantzler, Sr.
Also in the room: DeBell, Ward.
On the way: Sims and Baker.
The skinny: Houston enters as the favorite, based on a solid spring, and even if Theus ends up back at this spot, Houston would likely shift back to left guard. (Ah, the dominoes.) Dantzler is also an interesting name to watch, if for no other reason than he’s a senior who might deserve one final shot at a starting spot. He was actually off to a decent start this spring but a concussion slowed him down.
What happens next: Everything would be a lot simpler if the left guard spot is won by Beard or Kublanow, meaning the other four spots would stay as they are. But if the coaches decide they’d rather have Beard at left tackle, then the parts start moving. And don’t rule out someone like Dantzler or a freshman from making it interesting.
Coachspeak: “(Theus) can handle playing both. He’s been in the system long enough, he’s a smart guy. Some guys struggle with playing more than one spot, more than one side. He can handle it. (And) Kolton can handle it.” – Friend on Theus and Houston possibly rotating again.

Follow Seth Emerson at @sethemerson.

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