Competition along Georgia offensive line continues

Georgia offensive lineman Xavier Truss looks to block for wide receiver Kearis Jackson against Cincinnati in the Peach Bowl on Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”
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Georgia offensive lineman Xavier Truss looks to block for wide receiver Kearis Jackson against Cincinnati in the Peach Bowl on Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

ATHENS — Like most seasons, Georgia’s offensive line will serve as the linchpin of what the team hopes to be a potent running attack in 2021. Unlike most years, the Bulldogs also have realistic hopes to have a strong vertical passing game. The offensive line will be an important factor in achieving that, too.

Coach Kirby Smart said some defensive linemen pressured the quarterback several times Saturday in a scrimmage at Sanford Stadium. Whether they did so because they beat an offensive linemen or because of a mistake along the O-line was hard to say.

Either way, the competition continues under Smart’s watchful eye.

“We’ve had traditionally really good depth on the offensive line,” Smart said. “I can’t say that it’s any better or worse. We got who we got. … The beauty is we got guys out there that are getting better and competing each day. We’ll see where we are. Certainly, we’ve not arrived or where we need to be.”

Georgia played its scrimmage Saturday under rainy conditions. The team eventually moved to the indoor practice facility, but Smart appreciated the opportunity to compete with a wet ball. Georgia seems to play at least one game a season in the rain, Smart said.

A wet ball can be most challenging for the quarterback. JT Daniels will be the Bulldogs’ man under center this year, and Smart expects him to lead an “explosive” vertical passing attack.

The players protecting Daniels likely will change throughout the season. Still, Smart and offensive line coach Matt Luke want to find a starting five that works well together beginning Sept. 4 against Clemson.

One of the bigger competitions is at left tackle. Sophomore Xavier Truss, senior Jamaree Salyer, redshirt freshman Broderick Jones and freshman Amarius Mims are taking reps there in practice. Truss has played the most at the position so far, Smart said.

“With (Truss), so much of it is communication, demeanor, body language, fight,” Smart said. “He’s improved in all those areas. Very pleased with where he’s headed and what he’s doing.”

Truss started at left tackle against Cincinnati in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. The other starters that day were Salyer at left guard, center Warren Ericson, right guard Justin Shaffer and right tackle Warren McClendon.

Other players in the general mix include redshirt freshman Tate Ratledge, redshirt freshman Austin Blaske and sophomore Clay Webb. Redshirt freshman Sedrick van Pran also should see some playing time behind Ericson at center.

Although Ratledge has made an impression, he needs more time.

“We think he’s powerful, intelligent, (but) still inexperienced,” Smart said. “And experience is the greatest attribute you can get when it comes to SEC. You can’t simulate what you get in there in terms of third down, the speed of the game. He’s a guy that needs 1,000 reps, and we’re trying to get him to 1,000 as fast as we can. He’s embraced it, too.”

Ratledge can move around, but most likely would be a guard. The left tackle position remains the Bulldogs’ most public competition.

“(Left tackle) is a spot that’s, again, is always going to be open. Truss is getting most of the reps there until we can figure out who the best five are.”

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