ATHENS -- Last year against Vanderbilt, Brandon Kublanow was thrown into the game and had no idea what to do.
A freshman offensive lineman at the time, Kublanow had spent countless hours and endless nights studying the offensive playbook. There were times he thought he knew it. There were times he wasn’t so sure.
But as he entered the game to take a snap at left guard last year in Nashville, Tennessee, everything he’d practiced was instantly forgotten.
“I remember last year, they put me into the Vandy game, and my mind just went blank,” Kublanow said. “They called the play, and I just looked at Boss (David Andrews) and said, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing.’ That was crazy right there.”
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That story might concern some Georgia fans, but it shouldn’t. Cluelessness from young, especially freshmen, offensive linemen is a common theme everywhere, not just at Georgia. With the wide variations of pass block versus run block schemes, linemen are expected to know the playbook as thoroughly as anyone.
For the then-18-year-old Kublanow, it was overwhelming.
“When you’re a freshman, it’s crazy because they’re just throwing plays at you left and right,” he said. “You think you know something, and then something comes up. You’re all flipped backwards and you know nothing now. It takes awhile.”
In Kublanow’s mind, it took him a full year to finally grasp the playbook. He even goes so far as to say he still doesn’t “know” the playbook. But he has a strong enough understanding of it to compete this year.
Coaches expect the same, apparently, because Kublanow earned most of the first-team reps at left guard in the preseason. He seems to be the starter at that spot, even though no spots are guaranteed.
“Right now, I’m rolling with the ones,” Kublanow said. “Really anything’s up for grabs right now at every position.”
The “up for grabs” mentality is fostered by offensive line coach Will Friend’s approach to picking his starting offensive line. He has been known in the past to rotate his linemen, trying to solidify the best combinations on the line. His tactics have been the same this offseason.
Former starters and newcomers have been shifted around with no one -- likely excluding senior center David Andrews -- completely sure where they’d earn most of their reps on the line this year.
Kublanow has adjusted to the uncertainty, although it does cause a little anxiety.
“It always puts you on edge, not knowing what’s going on. You just do you, and I know it’ll all work out in the end,” he said. “During the season Coach Friend will normally roll eight, so we all feel comfortable with each other. If one person’s next to me instead of another, it doesn’t really make a difference.”
If Kublanow ultimately does lock down that starting left guard role, he’ll likely have Georgia’s longest-tenured offensive lineman lined up to the right of him at center. Andrews is widely considered to have the best knowledge of the Georgia playbook, Kublanow even saying he “thinks Boss knows more than the coaches sometimes.”
Kublanow obviously doesn’t expect to have that expertise yet, but he’s noticed a significant progress, even since the preseason began.
“I know most of it right now. Definitely not like Boss,” he said. “Boss knows everything, but I’m definitely way ahead from last year where I basically knew nothing. It’s kinda slowed the game down.”
Andrews has noticed the improvements Kublanow, whose nickname is “Box” has made, too, calling him “one of the more improved guys” since spring.
“I think Box had a good camp,” Andrews said. “He’s a done a lot better things. He’s gotten a lot better from spring to summer. I think he’s been working hard.”
Part of that improvement was purely overcoming health issues. In the spring, Kublanow came down with a stomach virus that caused him to drop almost 25 pounds. Knowing a 270-pound offensive lineman wouldn’t cut it in the SEC, Kublanow had some doubts but managed to gain it all back to return to his natural 295 pounds.
He knows this was (and will continue to be key) if he hopes to contribute in the way he wants to this year.
“I feel healthy, which is probably the most important thing for my continued progress,” Kublanow said.