Offseason Survival Kit: The OL
The offensive line. The big uglies. The guys who experience the impact of a car crash on every snap in which they participate. This silent majority (weight-wise) is often the difference between a good team and a great team, and always underappreciated and overlooked by fans and the media.
This phenomenon is supported by the fact that I can find no full-season starts and snaps numbers for the Georgia OL, and yet undermined by the extreme importance NFL teams place on this position group (show of hands: who had honestly heard of former Auburn OL Greg Robinson before a week ago?)
It’s not sexy to be an offensive lineman. It’s not sexy to discuss offensive linemen. But the following quote, coming from another school’s running back’s mother should get you pretty excited about the concept of studying their play:
The OL is critical to our success. Sure, a mobile QB could take a bit of pressure off of the OL for a second or two. But, the skilled guys cannot do their jobs as designed until the OL becomes a goon squad capable of rolling over/thru defenders like Mack trucks and/or knocking defenders on their asses. I want them to become a bunch of penalty-free savages. It could just be me, but I don’t think they play angry enough. The ‘Dawg’ HAS to be in them because I’ve watched him come out at practice. I just don’t think they let him out consistently on game day. (Former Center) Bodine’s Dawg roamed off the leash and I admired his passion for the game. IMHO, a few of his penalties were phantoms. The others…well, he just got caught with his hands in the cookie jar.
I have read quite a few comments from various posters about how the OL isn’t a factor. Sadly, the OL rarely gets credit for the work that they do. But, it’s because of them that the QB even has a pocket or RBs have a lane or crease or WRs to get open. Hell, some of them even get their big butts moving to block downfield. Still not convinced? Question: How many OL and DL went in the 1st round of the draft last year? Don’t worry. I’ll wait.
So, no. This is not as easy of a read as the receivers breakdown, and won’t get you excited about the upcoming season like the drool-worthy offensive backfield, but the success of Georgia’s offense in 2014 will come down to the following individuals:
Initially I tried to break this into tackles, guards, and centers, then exterior and interior, but Georgia’s staff has a propensity to move pieces around quite liberally. I did not know Kenarious Gates was a guard his first two years on campus.
Departed: LT Kenarious Gates (36 starts), LG Dallas Lee (34 starts), RG Chris Burnette (37 starts), backup Austin Long
This hurts. The three guys whose names were rarely called (another fun fact about offensive linemen: fans only know the bad ones!) are also the three leaving the program for 2014. Gates is projected to be a 7th-round pick by NFLDraftScout.com, while Burnette and Lee are on the outside looking in (Burnette is pursuing his MBA so I think his playing days are over). None of the three will wow you with tangible strength or athleticism, but their ability to gel into a cohesive unit made the 2012-2013 Georgia offensive line a great place. I expect some growing pains.
Projected/Previously Tackles: Junior LT John Theus (22 starts, 8 in 2013), Senior RT Kolton Houston (5 starts), Junior Xzavier Ward, Senior Mark Beard, Senior Watts Dantzler, redshirt freshman Aulden Bynum
Projected Interior: Senior C David Andrews (27 starts) Senior Hunter Long, Junior Caleb Drake, Sophomore Greg Pyke, Sophomore Brandon Kublanow, Junior Preston Mobley, redshirt Fr. Devondre Seymour, Redshirt Freshman Josh Cardiello (4*), Sophomore Cole Trollinger
That’s a mouthful, but there’s good news here. Andrews is an anchor at the center position, and having a veteran center will definitely ease the burden on picking up reads for the younger guys flanking him.
The tackles, Theus and Houston, both played a ton of snaps last year, and I expect Theus to take over at LT (hopefully while progressing, something he did not do from freshman to sophomore year. I keep hearing good things about Mark Beard being the other man at tackle, which would free up Houston to again play the role of third tackle.
I can’t claim much familiarity with the returning guards, but with Beard’s versatility he could be an option for one of the openings here, too. I suspect that Brandon Kublanow’s lack of a redshirt in 2013 is indication that he is being groomed to be among the next group of long-term starters on the line. Between Long, Drake, Pyke, Seymour, Cardiello, and Mobley, there are plenty of players who we’ll hear about separating themselves in spring ball leading up to G-day.
Isaiah Wynn (4*, #7 guard per 247’s composite rankings), Dyshon Sims (4*, #17 tackle), Kendall Baker (4*, #20 tackle), Jake Edwards (3*, #28 guard).
You never like to bring in only three OL due to the difficulty of projecting growth or busts, or the possibility of someone developing into a stud (a la Robinson, who leaves Auburn after 3 years). For me, bringing in 5 OL seems burdensome as well, as that is 5 scholarships likely redshirting in the upcoming season. 4 is the magic number, and the experts seem to think that these four possess significant potential.
Having said that, file this section away for the next two years.
Losing 100 combined solid starts from such a pivotal position (blah blah, SEC defensive linemen) is my biggest concern for Georgia as we sit 6 months from kickoff. While Theus, Andrews, Beard, and Houston provide varying degrees of experience and talent, the shuffling that will be necessary for Will Friend will make for a frustrating early part of the season. A good offensive line has time to gel and become synchronized, something that the departures of Gates, Lee, and Burnette and the shuffling of many young players prohibits the Dawgs from doing. This is a trouble spot for 2014. C-