D’Marcus Hayes, at 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds, could be just what Georgia needs on the offensive line.
The Bulldogs struggled up front and had a hard time establishing a consistent run game. Ideally, Georgia’s offensive identity under head coach Kirby Smart and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney will be a smash-mouth squad that can run effectively to set up the play-action pass.
In doing so for the 2017 season, the Bulldogs must replace three starters with left tackle Tyler Catalina, center Brandon Kublanow and right tackle Greg Pyke graduating.
Hayes, who enrolled early with five other recruits, figures to be one of those players counted on to fill the void. He'll certainly hope to pave the way for running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to find room.
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“I’ve already played in college for two years,” Hayes said during Georgia’s signing day webcast. “I feel I can share a little wisdom on them and just bring a new identity to the offensive line. They weren’t the offensive line they wanted to be this past year. I feel like I can come in here and help with that.”
In Georgia’s first eight games during the 2016 season, it averaged 173.8 rushing yards per game, which fell far short of what the group was accustomed to. That number did improve over the final five games, with the Bulldogs accounting for an average of 219.2 yards per game – which included a total of 248 rushing yards in a Liberty Bowl win over TCU.
Hayes is one of six linemen Georgia brought in to help form the Bulldogs into a consistent force up front. The others – Isaiah Wilson, Andrew Thomas, Netori Johnson, Justin Shaffer and D’Antne Demery – will enroll at Georgia until the summer.
But when they do, the Georgia coaching staff is confident that those new players, plus the ones returning, will provide enough motivation among the position group to improve each other.
“We’re talking about depth and competition in the room,” Chaney said. “I believe everyone we’ve been able to bring in on that offensive line is going to be able to do that. I don’t feel like there’s a young man that you can say, ‘Boy, he’s going to have to sit out a few years and gain that size and that strength,’ like in the old days when we used to do it. Most of these kids are walking in the door with the size and the speed that you’re looking for to be able to compete.”
As Chaney noted, however, a learning curve can be expected for some of the incoming linemen. But Hayes, who transferred in from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, is the most college-ready player of the incoming offensive linemen from a physical standpoint. Hayes will be among those competing for the starting left tackle job when spring practice begins.
Wilson, however, is the top prize of Georgia’s recruiting class of 2016. There’s a chance that if Wilson comes in like many expect him to that he could wind up with the starting right tackle job.
But that sort of thing can be tough to predict.
“Now, how quick can they pick up the playbook and how quick can they adjust to the speed of the SEC game? Who knows those questions?” Chaney said. “But they’re walking in and look right. I’m excited about watching that group of kids.”