Now more than halfway through spring practices--the Bulldogs pushed up their eighth workout to Wednesday due to the threat of heavy rains Thursday--there has been relative stability under new line coach Sam Pittman with the five guys lining up in the first unit the same during media viewing periods on most days.
“I guess he kind of knows where he wants the guys to play at,” junior Dyshon Sims said Wednesday.
Right tackle Greg Pyke, center Brandon Kublanow and left guard Isaiah Wynn have a combined 62 college starts. Left tackle Kendall Baker was a backup last year and is being challenged to play with more toughness and to be more physical, coach Kirby Smart said. Right guard Sims started one game last year against Kentucky.
Pyke was absent Wednesday--Smart said a day earlier that a lineman had a class conflict--so Sims moved to right tackle for the first time this spring and Lamont Gaillard stepped in at right guard.
“It was pretty fun,” said Sims, a junior from Valdosta. “Definitely a learning curve.”
It provided more valuable film for coaches.
“We kind of go to the first scrimmage and then we say, ‘OK, if this guy were to go down who’s the next best player?'” Smart said. “As we do that, we’ve got to put guys in position to be successful.”
The 6-foot-4 Sims said he played last year at about 300 pounds and his weight is fluctuating now between 305 to 310.
Pittman, who came from Arkansas, “wants some of us a little bit bigger and we’ve kind of got a plan to kind of get us to where we need to be during the offseason, but for right now we’re kind of fine where we’re at.”
Coaches would like him to be at 315 at the start of the season.
“It makes a difference when you can put on a little bit of weight and move it well,” Sims said.
Smart has singled out Gaillard, who moved last year from the defensive line, as someone who has impressed him of late.
He’s backing up Kublanow and could work his way into a role at guard.
“We’re going to get him as many snaps as we can and then cross-train him and get him the ability to do both positions,” Smart said.
Wynn started at left tackle the final five games last season. Smart calls him “the bricks and mortar. He’s the most talented guy there and does a good job. We don’t want to have to move him out.”
Pittman, who Georgia is paying $650,000 a year, hasn’t been made available to the media but the school put out a video of him miced up at practice.
On Wednesday, he barked out to his linemen:
“Get confident. This is speed and confidence.”
Wynn said earlier this spring “right now, there’s just a lot of energy on the field. We’re all buying in and it’s been good so far.”
Pyke and Kublanow, both seniors, are trying to be leaders, but Smart wants more players showing the way on the team.
Pyke was a starter at right guard who lost his job at one point last season and shifted to tackle where he’s had some growing pains, Smart said.
“He’s a guy that can go in and play guard,” Smart said. “He’s done it before. He’s played winning football there.”
Georgia’s coaches are trying to keep their options open with position flexibility.
“At the O-line, I think you’ve always got to look at and say someone’s going to get injured,” Smart said. “At that position, let’s be honest, you’re going to have injuries, you’re going to have depth issues. You’ve got to be able to rotate. Of course, we’ve got some guys coming in that are going to have to help us, too.”
The newcomer that could make the most immediate impact is Rhode Island graduate transfer Tyler Catalina, a candidate to start at tackle.
Sims said he has to show coaches he can be consistent to hold onto his spot.
“Go out there and keep doing it,” he said. “Keep having good days of practice and definitely bring the intensity.”