Bill Shanks

It’s all about the line of scrimmage

Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason (10) throws downfield while being pressured by Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis (40) during their game Saturday in Jacksonville.
Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason (10) throws downfield while being pressured by Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis (40) during their game Saturday in Jacksonville.

Football is a complicated sport. The intricacies are above most of us who aren’t looking at film all day long or out on the field coaching. But when push comes to shove, football comes down to three measly words.

Line of scrimmage.

Last Saturday’s game in Jacksonville proved what many already knew — Georgia’s offensive line is awful. Yes, that’s a strong word, but it probably doesn’t accurately describe how bad the Georgia offensive line of scrimmage is this season.

It’s bad, really bad.

While Florida’s defense, its line of scrimmage, is good, Georgia’s offensive line made the Gators look like the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Steel Curtain defense of the 1970s. Jacob Eason had someone within 3 feet of him most of the day, making it difficult to get anything going on offense.

And let’s say this: Eason has a lot to improve. His footwork needs help, and he must be more accurate. But Eason doesn’t even have the wide receiver group needed to show us how good he can be as a quarterback. The receivers still drop too many balls, even when he is on target.

It’s a shame Eason can’t grow into the position with a strong line in front of him. Instead, he’s running for his life, and he doesn’t run that well anyway. You think Eason was sore when he woke up last Sunday morning after the beating he took in Jacksonville?

Georgia’s offensive line has been an issue for years, as the previous coaching staff struck out in recruiting elite linemen. Kirby Smart said when he got the job improving the line of scrimmage was his priority. He has already made strides on defense, but the offense still needs work.

Georgia has 13 offensive linemen currently on scholarship. Not one was rated as a five-star prospect by the main four recruiting services.

Going back to 2002, Georgia has had 67 offensive linemen sign as part of the signing day class. Per, there was only one five-star offensive lineman signed (John Theus). There were 23 four-star players, 41 three-stars and two prospects rated as two-stars.

Narrow it down to the past five signing day classes. Of the 17 offensive linemen (yes, only 17 in five years, which is pathetic) signed, 11 were three-star prospects, five were four stars, with Theus the lone five-star prospect.

That is simply not good enough. With all the hoopla of the recruiting classes for Georgia through the years, the fact is they’ve failed in the most important area of building a championship team.

There are more flops than players who became stars. You can go through the list of Georgia’s offensive line recruits and practically laugh at players who you might have thought would be big-time players, but instead either left prematurely or were simply a waste of a scholarship.

Here’s what’s scary about the current situation. It doesn’t seem like there’s any immediate hope for it to get better. The current five starters are not very good, but certainly if there was someone else who could be an improvement they would have given that player a chance. Instead, the Georgia coaches have stuck with the starting five, despite the troubles.

What about backups Sam Madden, Sage Hardin or Pat Allen? Those are three redshirt freshmen, but only Allen was on the media flip chart a few weeks ago. Dyshon Sims was a consensus four-star prospect coming out of high school, but he can’t even crack the starting lineup?

Georgia’s coaches switched out the place-kicker a few weeks ago when they thought Rodrigo Blankenship was better than William Ham. But they obviously think, of the 13 linemen they have, they’re going with the best five.

Now that’s scary.

Three startling linemen —Brandon Kublanow, Tyler Catalina and Greg Pyke — will be gone after this season. Maybe that’ll be addition by subtraction, but only if their replacements are better. Who will step right in and be better when no backup can be an improvement right now?

This process is going to take time. You can’t expect true freshmen to do it. They’ve got to develop the current linemen on the roster and find better, more elite offensive line prospects. It’s that simple.

It’s why this Georgia team is 4-4 and why this might get a bit worse before it gets better.

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