Georgia State looking to fill one vacancy on offensive line

There are some high-profile positions up for grabs on the Georgia State football team, most notably at quarterback. But whoever earns that job before the season opens in September will have the benefit of operating behind an experienced offensive line.

During an abbreviated spring practice, the Panthers were searching for one starter — and additional versatility —  on their offensive line. Four spots were in the proven hands of veterans with plenty of game experience in the trenches.

The Panthers return left guard Shamarious Gilmore (6-foot-3, 288) and right guard Pat Bartlett (6-3, 288), center Malik Sumter (6-1, 295) and right tackle Travis Glover (6-6, 330). Only all-conference choice Hunter Atkinson graduated from the group that helped the Panthers set school records for rushing yards (3,141), total offense (5,818 yards) and points (406).

“It’s a great thing to bring four out of the five back,” Gilmore said. “We’re already molded. We just have to add that one more key piece and it’s not like it was just the starters by ourselves. Last year it was us and the young guys, so it’s just them stepping into that role and bonding like a family.”

Gilmore has started 37 straight games and is a three-time All-Sun Belt selection. Glover started every game in 2019 and was selected as a Freshman All-America. Bartlett has made 19 straight starts and played every snap — including extra points and special teams — in all but three games. Sumter was honorable mention all-conference and has started 18 straight at center.

Offensive line coach Thomas Austin agreed that finding a replacement for Atkinson was important, but he was in the process of cross training players at different positions. Gilmore saw some time at tackle, just in case he had to slide out here like he did two years ago against Georgia Southern.

“We’re trying to create some competition and keep them a little bit uncomfortable,” Austin said. “We’re trying to rotate those guys as much as we can and work different combination groups.”

The primary candidates in spring were junior Connor Robbins (6-9, 310) and sophomores Despelado Alexandre (6-5, 285) and Johnathan Bass (6-4, 290).

“Those three guys have played the most football, gotten a lot of reps,” Austin said. “It’s about getting the best five guys on the field.”

Gilmore understands how the experienced offensive line can help whoever wins the quarterback job left open by the graduation of Dan Ellington. Spring practice ended before a starting quarterback could be established. Jamil Muhammad, a redshirt freshman transfer from Vanderbilt, and true freshman Mikele Colasurdo are competing for the job against holdovers Cornelious Brown and Keirston Harvey.

That group has seven total games of college experience — four for Brown and three for Harvey — and will definitely need help from its offensive line.

“Having all of us back will help him a lot,” Gilmore said. “If we had a young O-line, then there would be a whole lot of mistakes. With great protection up front from the older guys and just us picking him up — because we’ve all been in his shoes as a first-year player — it’s just supporting him and keeping him comfortable in there.”

Austin said, “I think that helps. Any time we can take some things off the quarterback and the center takes control of some of those things, it helps. I want to rotate guys in there, but also we’ve got to protect those quarterbacks.”