Georgia Football Must Establish Offensive Line Early

By Brad Stephens

If the Georgia Bulldogs look to contend for the SEC East title and play in Atlanta in December, the offensive line must establish themselves and remain consistent all season.

The Dawgs had one of the conference’s most potent offenses last season with Aaron Murray at the helm. Despite a rash of injuries to several offensive skill players, the Dawgs were able to average over 35 points per game. The offensive line, despite constant rotations and a few games where they looked flat, performed well when it counted. It was a senior-laden crew that had endured struggles for four years and although 2013 was not a season for the ages, the line play was key in victories over South Carolina and LSU.

Three of those starters are gone now, leaving John Theus, Kolton Houston and David Andrews to man the line of scrimmage as the probable starters. As to whom will join Theus, Houston and Andrews on Aug. 30, the Dawgs have a few options. Mark Beard came on last season and established himself as a versatile player who can play just about any position on the line, save center.

Hunter Long, Josh Cardiello, Zach Debell and Watts Dantzler are career backups that have seen limited reps during their days in Athens, but the time could be now for their number to be called. Junior, Xzavier Ward, was believed to be the offensive tackle of the future when he was signed out of Colquitt County High School, but he has been bitten by the injury bug and remains a question mark.

One of the biggest surprises of the spring was the play of Greg Pyke, a 6-foot-6, 326 pound sophomore. Pyke played lacrosse in high school and the skills he learned there have translated to the gridiron. He possesses quick feet and violent hands to go with his size, and he battled Georgia’s most seasoned defensive linemen all spring. Do not be shocked to see Pyke line up as the starter at one of the tackle positions when the season starts. Another tough player who battled this spring is sophomore Brandon Kublanow, who saw major playing time at guard in 2013. Kublanow may not have Pyke’s size, but his strength and aggressiveness were evident when he saw the field.

Regardless of who starts, the main goal will be to open lanes for Todd Gurley and protect Hutson Mason, as he eases into his first year as a starter. The constant changes on the offensive line last season were a concern and maybe the grouping of Theus, Houston, Andrews, Pyke and Kublanow can create enough continuity in the early games to establish themselves as the starting five, barring injury. If they can do so, the Dawgs can pile up yardage and points in a hurry with Mike Bobo‘s ever-improving play-calling.

This summer will be key as Mason grows into his role and these players learn tendencies and adapt to the warring ways in the trenches of the SEC.

Brad Stephens is an SEC Football writer for Feel free to follow on Twitter @bradstephens320 or add him to your Google network.

The Georgia Bulldogs football schedule will open against the Clemson Tigers on August 30 and the Bulldogs will play their first conference game against South Carolina on September 13. Georgia went 8-5 and 5-3 in conference games last year. Their final home game will be against Georgia Tech on November 29.

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