Yesterday, Charles Stephenson talked about how Georgia has gotten to the point where there are no seniors or juniors on the offensive line. Today, Charles takes a look at where the Bulldogs will go from here:
This won't take long, seeing as how there are only eight of them. These reviews are based on what I hear through various sources, and what I see with my own eyes.
Josh Brock- Nobody thought he would play as a true freshman, much less start a couple of games. Brock is short for an OL; about 6'2". That is fine for a guard. He is explosive, quick, and fights hard. I didn't detect that he missed assignments very often. He looked as good as Breedlove. Brock doesn't excel in driving a big DT off the line. He will get better at that over time, but we don't ask it of our line as much as other teams do. He is the most experienced returnee, and I can't see that we lost anything at all when he was in games. I remember watching Sullivan toss him around last Spring, and thinking, my goodness, this kid won't be ready for a while. He was getting tossed around by a pretty tough customer. There is no question that enrolling early helped Brock earn his playing time.
Russ Tanner- This guy had a strange year. He was battling for the starting job until he suffered a sprained knee. Just when he got over that, he hurt his hand-a bad injury for a center. He played some snaps, and did a decent job. The word is that he needs to pick it up a little in practice and in the weight room. He is more physically talented than Ian Knight, and should be at least as good right now. They were very close last August.
Max Jean-Gilles- The coaches are gushing over his potential. They think he can be the best offensive lineman UGA has had in a very long time and a first round draft pick after his junior year. He is HUGE. Although he is a little on the short side for a tackle (about 6'4") he has long arms; he just has no neck. His performance was excellent for a freshman. He is as strong as most players with far more experience and maturity. He needs to lose a little weight, and just keep working hard. His lateral movement is good for a guy that weighs that much; it needs to be good for a guy that weighs a little bit less. I remember thinking that George Foster was just unnaturally strong early in his career. Jean-Gilles is even stronger. He got beat for a sack in the Sugar Bowl. Sometimes you get beat.
Bartley Miller- He probably would have played more if he hadn't been injured early on. If you want to see an impressive display, check out Miller in the Clemson game. He makes a tackle on an interception return that really something. Good size, good mobility, hard worker. He has All-SEC potential.
Dennis Roland- Just when you think the players are big, here comes Roland. He is at least 6'9", and still looks skinny at over 300 lbs. He played enough for us to get some kind of an idea about his ability. He is a very good run blocker, which one wouldn't expect from a tall, skinny guy. That was a pleasant surprise. In pass blocking he is still a work in progress. If he gets squared up on the DE, and gets his hands on him, it is all over. The downside is his coordination. He is still getting used to being that tall. The Vanderbilt DE (a pretty good player) got him off-balance on two straight plays, and made him look bad. Shed Wynn beat him at G-Day, but Wynn then proceeded to beat many people this season. Staying low is always going to be an issue for a guy that tall. The coaches think he has unlimited potential, but still has a ways to go. The guy could honestly be a first round draft choice in three years. We need him to be ready now.
Dan Inman- I haven't seen much of him; only the NC/SC high school all-star game from last year. He looked very good in that game. He is big enough to contribute already. The word on Inman is that he struggled a bit picking up the system, and adjusting to the level of play. Richt recently said that he would give Roland a run for his money for the starting job.
Randall Swoopes- The book on Swoopes is that he is a dominating run blocker, but is still learning to snap the ball. Like most freshmen he is learning to pass block. If he doesn't beat out Tanner at center, he will probably play some guard as well. He is a legacy, and those kids usually work very hard to do themselves proud in the Red and Black.
Reggie Weeks- I have never seen him play a down. He is physically impressive, and could probably help out at guard or tackle. He has been through the wringer with injuries. If he is ready, it would really help the depth situation.
That's all folks, at least until the signees arrive next August. Eight sophomores with vary amounts of playing time. The encouraging thing is that all of them have natural ability. They will get a lot of coaching in the Spring, and must see the opportunity make their marks.
We will have no choice but to play some of these kids. It wasn't a great year for offensive linemen; in fact, only 2002 has been particularly good of late. It seems to be an every other year kind of thing. It is difficult to project who will be ready as a true freshman. A player that is physically ready, might not learn the assignments quickly enough. Some have trouble facing somebody their own size for the first time ever. Some need to add muscle, and some need to lose fat. Keep in mind that the heights and weights you see next to these kids are often from 18 mos. prior to when they report. They are still growing. Some are working out religiously, others have never really lifted weights. Some have reached most of their potential already, others have barely scratched the surface.
Trey Chandler- In pads this kid looks like a Stinchcomb relative. He is on the skinny side, but is an impressive blocker. Great feet, great technique. Will he be big enough to help this year? That remains to be seen. Had good stats on defense.
Zeb McKinzey- He looks like the most ready to play of the incoming freshmen. Already big enough and strong enough to play at center or guard. It's a matter of him being mentally ready to make the jump. I think we are expecting him to play a lot. I wish he was already in school. He could do at least what Brock was able to do; meaning he can be a solid contributor immediately. He had good stats and was named Georgia Player of the Year on defense, which is a good sign about his mobility.
Ken Shackleford- Big enough right now. He seems to have the complete package. Looks to be a little bit raw in terms of technique, but might be second to McKinzey in terms of being physically ready.
Fernando Velasco- Not a well-known recruit. He knocked their socks off at our camp. He is big and strong. Rumored to have been the best lineman at the camp, ahead of players that were ranked far higher. They want him to lose a little weight. I have heard comparisons to Jonas Jennings.
Nick Jones- Looks like a reach, until you look further. He is a state wrestling champion, and has the size and strength you look for in an interior lineman. We offered him pretty early, which tells me the staff saw something they liked. I don't sweat an early offer to a lesser-ranked player. It's the desperation offers in late January that worry me.
Tommy Gainous- He lacks muscle, and is probably a redshirt candidate, assuming he qualifies. Has the frame to add lbs., and is rumored to have been impressive at our camp. Another early offer to a lesser-ranked player. Hope my theory is right on these. Rumor is that the staff thinks he has good "upside," and was impressed with his explosion off the ball.
Coleman Watson- Who knows where this player will end up? He could play tight end, offensive line, or defensive line. He looks like a player regardless of position. Probably not big enough to contribute immediately on the OL, but these kids can eat and grow a lot in eight months. He already weighs over 270.
What we really need is for at least three of these players to be as ready as Josh Brock was in 2002. McKinzey and Shackleford probably have the best chances, but anything is possible. That would give us ten serviceable offensive linemen, eleven, if Weeks is ready to play. I have heard Richt opine that a team needs sixteen to nineteen offensive linemen, so I think we can expect to keep signing large numbers of large players.
So, where does that leave us?
It's very hard to tell what the line will be like. Remember that last year we all thought that defensive end was a glaring weakness. We didn't know that Pollack was a terror, or that Thompson and Geathers were serious about winning the job, or that Shed Wynn really had something to offer. There were glimpses, but nothing you could hang your hat on. These guys might really turn some heads. Obviously, we cannot afford much in the way of injuries.
A starting interior of Tanner, Brock and Miller seems likely, and they can probably be as effective as the somewhat disappointing 2002 unit. Tackle is where we start to sweat. Jean-Gilles looks solid, but Roland and Inman have to get it together. We don't have two years to wait on their development. Roland has been in the program longer, and should have the edge.
We are counting on true freshmen making real contributions, and that is never a good thing. Callaway will have his work cut out for him, as will the rest of the offensive staff. This is going to take one heckuva coaching effort, and some hard work from the players. Let's hope they are all up to it.