Georgia tackle Jamaree Salyer has proved his worth to Bulldogs, NFL

Georgia offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer (69) had a huge game against Michigan and All-American defensive end Aidan Hutchinson in the College Football Playoff semifinal game at the Orange Bowl against at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Friday, Dec. 31, 2021. (Photo by Tony Walsh)

Credit: Tony Walsh/UGAAA

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Georgia offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer (69) had a huge game against Michigan and All-American defensive end Aidan Hutchinson in the College Football Playoff semifinal game at the Orange Bowl against at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Friday, Dec. 31, 2021. (Photo by Tony Walsh)

Credit: Tony Walsh/UGAAA

Matchup vs. Alabama’s Will Anderson is one to watch

INDIANAPOLIS – Georgia’s Jamaree Salyer made himself some money last week. He could make himself more Monday.

As crass as that is to say, that’s the straight truth.

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When the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs were preparing to face No. 2 Michigan in the Orange Bowl, the lion’s share of media attention was focused on Aidan Hutchinson. The Wolverines’ hallowed defensive end finished second in the Heisman Trophy and was the nation’s leaders in sacks with 14. Combined with fellow defensive end David Ojabo on the other side, Georgia’s pass-protectors were expected to be in trouble.

Notably, Michigan did not record a sack. Indeed, the Wolverines had only two hurries.

The majority of the time, Salyer was head up on Hutchinson, just as he will be Monday night against Alabama’s Will Anderson.

There are a lot of people in football who believe that Anderson is an even better pass rusher. His statistics seem to validate that assertion. Facing SEC competition most of the season, Anderson has 17.5 sacks, 3.5 more than Hutchinson and the most in the country.

“The trio of Hutchinson, Ojabo and Anderson are obviously all good players,” Salyer said. “Even the young kid they have at Alabama is a very good player. I’m always excited to rise to the occasion.”

NFL scouts were no doubt excited to see what Salyer did. It has definitely has enhanced the professional value of the senior from Atlanta.

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Not that there wasn’t already a lot there. The 6-foot-4, 325-pound product of Pace Academy signed with Georgia as a 5-star prospect and deeply contemplated entering the draft as a junior after last season. But he chose to return in hopes of increasing his stock while trying to lead the Bulldogs back into the national championship picture.

He has made good on both counts.

Even before the postseason, Salyer had put together enough tape to convince NFL evaluators of his worth. He didn’t play perfectly, but he played well enough to earn second-team All-SEC and All-American honors. Most notably, he did not allow a sack the entire regular season.

However, Salyer suffered a foot injury that forced him to miss the last four games of the regular season. He came back for the SEC Championship game and held his own against Alabama, but was not near 100%.

Salyer gave up his first and only sack of the season. It came against Anderson.

“He played well in the SEC Championship game,” said Kevin Johnson, Salyer’s position coach at Pace Academy. “The way I do it is I break it down afterwards, and he gave up that late sack. But, besides that, he played well the whole game. But, you know, the Orange Bowl was big. It was the only game on and the attention was all on the Heisman Trophy guy (Hutchinson), and everybody saw how well Jamaree played there.”

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Johnson still serves as Salyer’s personal coach and mentor, just as he does to fellow Pace alum Andrew Thomas, now of the New York Giants. Johnson believes Salyer is on the same level with Thomas.

“Let me tell you something, (Salyer has) been playing like that all year,” Johnson said. “He had a little injury and that set him back, but he’s been playing well all year. This kid has been locked in since high school. And this opportunity couldn’t happen to a better person.”

Salyer’s pretty jacked about getting another crack at Anderson and Alabama, too.

“Both teams have their backs up against the wall this time; kind of playing for glory this time,” Salyer said. “We just have to be on the same page and play with the same intensity (as in the Orange Bowl).”

Regardless, Salyer’s future as an NFL player seems set. It’s hard to recall, at this point, that Georgia was contemplating moving Salyer to guard or center, where he’s expected to play as a pro. There’s no telling where the Bulldogs might be without Salyer guarding their left flank.

But having played all five positions while at Georgia has done nothing but enhance Salyer’s worth.

“He’s a Swiss army knife. That’s what you can call him,” Johnson said. “He can be a can opener, he files nails, he could cut some paper if you need him to. He’s that guy. So, if a team is looking at an interior guy, they’re going to say, ‘OK, this guy can play left tackle, right tackle, center and both guards, why wouldn’t we want to take this guy?’ And he’s playing at the highest level in the SEC.

“There are three conferences in the NFL: NFC, AFC and the SEC. That’s what it is. And night in and night out this kid has played his tail off against some of the best competition there is in the country.”

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