Bulldogs Beat

Pre-spring preview: Depth remains a concern for Georgia offensive line

Jason Butt

jbutt@macon.com

Brandon Kublanow calls a signal during Georgia's game against Missouri in 2015.
Brandon Kublanow calls a signal during Georgia's game against Missouri in 2015.

All offseason, Georgia football head coach Kirby Smart has made mention of the need to get bigger on both lines of scrimmage.

While depth is building on the defensive side, the offensive line is still a bit thin in Smart’s view. He said as such on multiple occasions, including at a February athletics board meeting when he joked about the possibility of bringing former Georgia tackle Jon Stinchcomb, a member of Georgia’s athletics board, back to the team.

“We might even bring Stinchcomb out of retirement to block,” Smart said. “We need some offensive tackles. I think he can play a little bit.”

“Hopefully we’re not that bad off,” Stinchcomb said.

In 2015, Georgia felt comfortable with about six offensive linemen through the majority of the season.

But even in the preseason, former head coach Mark Richt made mention of the drop-off between the first and second teams.

Three of Georgia’s top six offensive linemen exhausted their eligibility, leaving the Bulldogs with three returning starters in Isaiah Wynn, Brandon Kublanow and Greg Pyke. Combine that with Georgia bringing in a new offensive line coach in Sam Pittman, and the linemen could be shuffled around to fit what the new staff wants up front.

Pyke figures to stick at right guard, where he has started the past two seasons. After a stellar sophomore season, he had some difficulties in 2015, which led to a first-half benching against Kentucky. Pyke has been a raw talent since his freshman season, and given Pittman’s reputation, Pyke could thrive up front in his senior year.

Kublanow could wind up at center or at guard. Wynn, who can play all five positions, could wind up at center if Georgia goes with bigger bodies at tackle and guard. Wynn might not have the ideal size Pittman wants on his offensive lines but plays like he’s much bigger than he’s listed. On sheer talent and athleticism, Wynn will be a starter. As for where, that remains to be seen.

But back to Smart’s point of being thin at offensive tackle. Smart and Pittman felt strongly enough about it that they secured a commitment of Rhode Island graduate transfer Tyler Catalina, who spent the previous four years with the Rams at the FCS level. Catalina, 6-foot-6 and 298 pounds, could be in line to start at left tackle for his final year of eligibility.

Given the other options Georgia has, Catalina might be the best one for the Bulldogs to go with. If not Catalina, Georgia could choose freshman Ben Cleveland.

But Cleveland also spend his first year starting at right tackle if he proves worthy of starting as a true freshman. Cleveland could end up competing with Kendall Baker for the job. During TaxSlayer Bowl practices, former Georgia offensive tackle John Theus said Baker was someone he felt could contribute at the position in 2016.

Pat Allen, Mirko Jurkovic and Sage Hardin are other tackles Smart and Pittman will get a good look at this spring. Sam Madden and Dyshon Sims are guards who figure to play backup roles. Sims has game experience as he started Georgia’s 2015 game against Kentucky.

Smart has been critical at times about the offensive line, given the uncertainty at offensive tackle and the lack of proven depth on the roster. But Smart has been pleased with how the offensive line has approached offseason strength and conditioning workouts to this point.

“Those guys are buying in and working really hard,” Smart said. “I’m fired up about the work they are doing. I wish there were more of them and I wish they were bigger. But they are working hard and that’s all I can ask of them right now.”

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