“Working with Goede was great, how he went about his business and how he handled that podcast,” Ratledge said after the Bulldogs’ practice Wednesday night. “He really loved it and really took charge of it. But me and Z-Lo had a bond before that podcast, and I think it just kind of strengthens that bond, and we’re a perfect fit to just talk with each other.”
Ratledge started the opening game of the 2021 season at right guard, then suffered a dreaded Lisfranc fracture of his right foot on Georgia’s first offensive series. After missing the rest of that season, Ratledge started 14 of the Bulldogs’ 15 games last season. He is slated to start again at right guard Saturday night against Tennessee-Martin and all this season.
A former 5-star prospect from Rome, Ratledge signed with the Bulldogs as the No. 3-rated offensive tackle prospect in the nation. But he was moved to guard and redshirted during the 2020 season. He has stuck at guard ever since.
“When I got here, I learned pretty quick I wasn’t going to be a tackle going against guys like Jermaine Johnson and Adam Anderson,” Ratledge said with a chuckle. “I was sitting there as a freshman thinking ‘what am I doing here’ getting worked every day out there on the edge. Then, one day my coach came up to me and said, ‘I think you’d work best at guard,’ and I’ve loved being there ever since.”
Ratledge lined up the past two seasons next to right tackle Warren McClendon. This year, it’s Amarius Mims – another 5-star tackle prospect – who is lining up beside Ratledge on Georgia’s offensive line. The Bulldogs also are breaking in a new pair of left tackles in redshirt freshman Earnest Greene and junior Austin Blaske.
Ratledge, left guard Xavier Truss and center Sedrick Van Pran are returning starters in the center of the line. Dylan Fairchild, Micah Morris, Monroe Freeling and Jared Wilson are among the next linemen to rotate in.
Ratledge likes the makeup of the whole group.
“(Mims) has shown a tremendous effort to mature and step into that role as a tackle,” Ratledge said of the 6-foot-8, 335-pound sophomore. “He’s taken it on with a full head of steam and ran with it. On the field, I have more trust in Sed than I’ve ever had with anybody I’ve played with. Off the field, we’re like brothers.”
“Trust” is a word that Georgia players use often when talking about the 2023 offense, which will be under the direction of a new coordinator in Mike Bobo and new quarterback in Carson Beck.
Beck and Ratledge are very close.
“He’s one of my best friends off the field,” Ratledge said of Beck. “I lived with him for two years. You get to know those guys you come in with better than anybody. … You have more reasons to play for on Saturdays than just yourself. You’re playing for the guys next to you, and you know why they’re playing.”
Logue, who goes against those guys in practice every day, believes Georgia’s offensive line could be one of the best it has fielded yet. He called them “maulers up front.”
“It’s not just the first group, it’s the second group as well,” Logue said. “Our first two and even three groups can go to any school in the country and play, I feel like. That’s what we pride ourselves on at Georgia: If someone goes down, the next guy steps up.”
Ratledge should have plenty of options going forward. Because he entered UGA during the COVID-19 season of 2020, he could petition for another season of eligibility in college. As it is, the 6-6, 310-pound guard is a third-year sophomore.
Ratledge already owns two national championship rings. He’d love to get a third before he decides whether to give the NFL draft a shot next year or to come back for one or two more.
If nothing else, Ratledge knows there could be a future for him in front of a camera.
“It definitely makes me more comfortable in situations like this,” Ratledge said as he stood at a lectern answering reporters’ questions this week. “When I first got here, in front of a camera, I hated it. Now I’m definitely more comfortable around it, and I think it has made me better, talking-wise, in front of large groups of people.”
That could be said for 90,000-plus at Sanford Stadium as well.