Georgia needed some improvement on its offensive line heading into the 2017 season. Given that five-star offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson was a major part of last year’s recruiting haul, it was expected that the Brooklyn, New York, native would step in and contribute immediately.
That didn’t materialize.
In fact, it was another freshman in Andrew Thomas who ended up starting every game. As it turned out, Wilson needed some time to adjust to the college game. While Wilson rotated with the second and third teams in practice, he redshirted in 2017.
Offensive line coach Sam Pittman said Wilson needed last season to grow accustomed to what Georgia is looking for out of him. As a result, Wilson got a year of experience but still has four years of eligibility remaining.
“He wasn’t ready to play. Pretty simple,” Pittman said. “He wasn’t there yet. By the time we felt like he was headed in that direction it was late in the season so we decided to keep him there.”
It was a tough transition for Wilson at first. Wilson was used to being a man among boys in New York. He was a camp phenom due to his size. He even bulldozed his way into the end zone as a high school football player as a wildcat quarterback.
So sitting wasn’t something Wilson was used to. He made the most of it, however. During games, he was often spotted asking for more crowd noise by throwing his arms in the air. He was someone who went out of his way to encourage his teammates who were competing during games.
While there was an adjustment phase for Wilson, it didn’t take long for him to embrace the redshirt season.
“It’s tough at first but once you adjust and see why it’s happening, it’s OK, especially when you know you’re winning and you’re helping a team win,” Wilson said. “Most people see a redshirt as I’m on the sideline and not doing anything. But I think I personally have embraced it. On the scout team I give the (first team defense) the best look I can. On the sideline, you guys have probably seen it, I try to get the crowd energized and get the sideline into the game. Once you embrace it, it’s very easy.”
Measurables: 6-foot-7, 345 pounds
Accomplishments to date: While he redshirted last season, Wilson exited the spring as Georgia's first-team right tackle. He arrived to Georgia as the No. 1 player in the state of New York and the fifth-ranked offensive tackle in the nation, according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings.
Competition at the position: A year ago, Thomas manned right tackle but has since moved to left tackle. That has placed Wilson in competition with freshman early enrollee Cade Mays. With Pat Allen electing to transfer at the end of spring practice, the job very well could be Wilson’s to lose. Mays is a talented five-star tackle himself but doesn’t have the year of experience Wilson earned in 2017.
Why he will break out in 2018: The tangible qualities Wilson possesses as a tackle are clearly there. He’s big, he’s strong and he has plenty of power. Channeling all of that within the Georgia system turned out to be a process, which Wilson began to master as the season continued.
Pittman said he started to feel Wilson was worthy of playing later in the season. By then, however, the coaches wanted to preserve Wilson’s redshirt, especially with how well the offensive line played throughout the year. In 2018, Georgia returns four starters from last year’s team, which should only help Wilson. Wilson will have every chance to hold onto the starting right tackle job this preseason while showing why he was a five-star prospect coming out of high school.