Georgia’s so-called “Great Wall” of an offensive line has their own saying in the meeting room.
“It’s like Coach (Sam) Pittman says, we have got to start the party,” right guard Ben Cleveland said.
Coach Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs are a consensus top five team entering the 2019 season with visions of partying in the College Football Playoff Championship Game in New Orleans this season.
As always in the game of football, it all starts up front.
“I really just want our guys to dominate the guy that lines up across from them, it’s just that simple,” Smart said at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin in May. “If every guy that we put on the field can dominate the guy across from him, then I think we’ll come out ahead and I’ll be happy about it.”
The Georgia offensive line figures to be one of the most talked about position groups as coaches and players descend on the Wynfrey Hotel for the annual SEC Media Days event this week.
The Bulldogs return six players who started games last season, when Georgia led the SEC in rushing and Jake Fromm was hit fewer times than any league quarterback per advanced metrics.
Fromm, himself, is a Heisman Trophy candidate. Tailback D’Andre Swift is a returning 1,000-yard rusher and is considered among the best at his position in the nation.
But there's something about Georgia's jumbo offensive linemen that has many people captivated.
Analysts, fans and alums alike have talked about the potential for the Bulldogs’ massive and talented offensive front, led by line coach Pittman.
“They look like a freakin’ great wall,” said former NFL and UGA offensive lineman George Foster, himself 6-foot-5 and 338 pounds during his playing career.
“The Georgia line, what I really like about them is it seems they have recruited the right temperament that you want,” Foster said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the best group we’ve ever seen.”
Indeed, three of the 10 players featured on the Bulldogs’ 2019 media guide covers are members of the so-called ‘Great Wall.’
Thing is, UGA hasn’t even settled on its starters, though the left side of the line and the center position seem safe enough to project.
“What they do in the offseason, what they work out like, how they do in school, how they compete in the fall,” Smart said, asked about the competition up front after the spring game, “Competition helps, we’ve had a great rotation.”
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Outland Trophy candidate and preseason All-American left tackle Andrew Thomas (6-5, 320) will appear at SEC Media Days when Georgia takes its turn on Tuesday morning.
Solomon Kindley (6-4, 335) is the projected starter at left guard and could be the most underrated of the group, while sophomore Trey Hill (6-4, 330) will likely start at center barring injury.
The right side is less settled entering fall camp.
“Guys have competed really hard at right guard, Cade Mays has done a great job competing over there,” Smart said after the G-Day Game. “Right tackle is really up for grabs, both guys are competing, there’s a lot of positions in there that guys continue to get better.”
Redshirt junior right guard Cleveland (6-6, 335) and redshirt sophomore right tackle Isaiah Wilson (6-7, 340) are battling to hold off Mays (6-6, 318), who also started games in 2018 and was a FWAA Freshman All-American.
Jamaree Salyer (6-4, 325), the No. 1 offensive guard in the 2018 class, is also working to win playing time on the offensive line after strong bowl practices and flashes during spring camp.
For all the talk, Smart made it clear he’ll judge off what he sees first hand.
“Can it be a strength for out team? Yeah, but so can a lot of our positions,” Smart said. “I don’t think you get things off forecasting or projecting, you get them off doing it, and we have to have them go out and play well to be a successful offense.”
Cole Cubelic, a former Auburn offensive lineman and current analyst for ESPN and the SEC Network, projects the ‘Great Wall’ as the favorite to win the Joe Moore Award, which goes to the best offensive line in college football.
“Going into the season, I talk about Georgia, Oregon and Alabama as the top three in the country, and then you pencil in Wisconsin and a couple of others,” Cubelic said. “I think Clemson and Michigan are probably in that discussion, and Washington might have a chance to be in there. Auburn has all five starters back, but they didn’t play great football last year and were at times they were inconsistent.”
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