It all starts up front.
If Georgia’s offense is to improve in 2016, it won’t hinge only on which quarterback starts or whether running back Nick Chubb is 100 percent to begin the season.
The offensive line is where scoring success begins, even in the modern age of the spread. Georgia will want to establish the run and work the play-action game with head coach Kirby Smart and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney running the show.
Therefore, a sound offensive line is needed to run the system. Georgia’s line didn’t live up to its standard at times last year, although it dealt with going from Mike Bobo and Will Friend to Brian Schottenheimer and Rob Sale.
Another change has taken place to Chaney and offensive line coach Sam Pittman, although this one could work out much better than the previous transition.
Players expected to compete for starting spots: OL Isaiah Wynn, OL Greg Pyke, OG Dyshon Sims, OG Lamont Gaillard, C Brandon Kublanow, OT Kendall Baker, OT Tyler Catalina (graduate transfer), OL Ben Cleveland (freshman)
How they fared in the spring: The offensive line began the spring in rebuilding mode as it had to deal with the losses of John Theus and Kolton Houston. This forced Pittman to move Pyke to right tackle, a position he may stay at this fall.
It was an adjustment for Pyke, who has been a starter at right guard for the past two seasons. But based on the personnel, it was a needed move for the Bulldogs to make.
Wynn began the spring at left guard but kicked out to left tackle by the end. He replaced Kendall Baker as the starting left tackle, with Dyshon Sims moving to left guard. This allowed Lamont Gaillard to step in as the starting right guard.
When practice began in March, Pittman’s voice would raise often at his position group. By the end of the spring, it didn’t occur too much – at least when reporters were able to view practice. The offensive line made some great strides through the spring and do have one of the best coaches at the position in the country leading it.
What to watch in August: Catalina’s addition could be what makes a huge difference in how the offensive line produces in 2016. Catalina brings a ton of experience to Georgia, having started at Rhode Island for the past three seasons. He could play either left tackle or right tackle and should get a look at a starting spot fairly early into preseason practice.
If Catalina takes a starting tackle spot, the person occupying the position now will likely move back inside – whether it’s Wynn going to left guard or Pyke moving to right guard. Sims would most likely stay as the other starting guard, considering he started the spring at right guard before moving to left guard.
Kublanow’s the only one who knows for certain where he’ll play this fall as he’s set at center.
Breakout candidate: Catalina can be seen as the difference-maker on the offensive line for the 2016 season. If all goes as expected, Catalina will in fact start and help bridge the gap from 2016 to 2017 with where the Bulldogs are at the tackle position.
Smart stated numerous times during the spring that tackle is one of the primary positions to recruit for 2017 and a lot of that has to do with the numbers at the position. Catalina is a seasoned and experienced tackle who can fill in for a year without Georgia losing a scholarship for the 2017 season.
The coaches thought highly enough of Catalina to visit him in New England during the spring during the practice schedule. While Catalina may begin spring practice with the second group of linemen, he’ll have an early opportunity to earn a starting spot.
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