Bulldogs Beat

‘I just want to win.’ The powerful Georgia offensive line has confidence and swagger

Hello, spring practice: UGA head coach Kirby Smart speaks to media on first day of training

Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart spoke to media on the first day of spring training on March 19, 2019. Smart praised the success of other teams on campus, like tennis and gymnastics, and shared progress players have made in the offseason.
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Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart spoke to media on the first day of spring training on March 19, 2019. Smart praised the success of other teams on campus, like tennis and gymnastics, and shared progress players have made in the offseason.

It doesn’t take long to notice Georgia’s offensive line on the Woodruff practice fields. The linemen walk around in their bright red uniforms and look to be clones of each other — in size, that is.

That’s a testament to the work of fourth-year Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman, and players and coaches seem to sing his praises each season. His roster is full of players over 300 pounds who have a mentality of undeniable physicality, from starters to a final line of reserves.

At the end of the 2018 season, Georgia lost center Lamont Gaillard, left guard Kendall Baker — both of whom started all 14 games — and reserve Sean Fogarty. That’s when “next man up” gained traction.

“We don’t miss a beat and believe everyone on our line is capable of playing really good ball,” sophomore offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson said. “We don’t worry about if someone knows a call when we put him in, but he’s ready to go out and play.”

Georgia’s success can start at tackle spots, and those will almost assuredly be led by Wilson at right tackle and junior Andrew Thomas — an All-American and one who many project to be a first-round NFL draft pick — anchoring the left side. Wilson, known for his massive stature since his days at Poly Prep in Brooklyn, New York, was formally available to the media for the first time after starting each game in his redshirt freshman campaign.

He likes to describe the Bulldogs’ offensive line as “physical and confident” and wants to emerge as a leader among the unit. Wilson noticed a significant shift in difficulty from high school in the Northeast to the physicality of SEC football.

Wilson was named to the Freshman All-SEC Team after his successes last season, and now exudes successful development and a sense of swagger.

“I just want the team to win,” Wilson said. “I don’t care who’s out there. Whoever’s on the field, I want that player to do well. I just want to win.”

Georgia feels confident with slotting Houston County product Trey Hill in at center to replace Gaillard. — he did so at many points in 2018 as a rotation piece and reserve. Georgia will also have early enrollee Clay Webb and redshirt freshman Warren Ericson compete at the position.

Jamaree Salyer, a former five-star prospect out of Pace Academy, could be a propspect in the discussion to play alongside Thomas, his high school teammate.

Salyer is emerging as a favorite for playing time, but at a different spot than expected at right guard. Georgia had Ben Cleveland and Cade Mays start at the position last season.

“The biggest jump has been that guy (Salyer),” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “You kept waiting on it because you knew he was a really talented player. But I haven’t seen the Jamaree I’ve seen this spring, I didn’t see that at all last fall. He’s challenging some guys. He’s making other guys work hard.”

Georgia is using its depth to retool its offensive line, and it has appeared to happen seamlessly.

As a reporters rattled off questions about different offensive linemen, the answer was always the same.

For the Bulldogs, that’s the best-possible scenario.

“He’s going to be a great player for a long time,” Wilson said.

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