During the spring and summer months leading up to Georgia’s 2017 season, all anyone seemingly could talk about was the Bulldogs’ offensive line—and the talk normally wasn’t positive.
Everyone knew the team’s running backs would be great, and the wide receivers and tight ends would likely continue to get better, but all of it essentially wouldn’t matter if the offensive line played like it did last year.
After losing three starters to graduation, offensive line coach Sam Pittman had to get creative with his unit, putting together a hodgepodge of players. From that amalgamation, Pittman developed a starting unit currently regarded as one of the best in the SEC.
Left Tackle: Isaiah Wynn (Sr.)
Wynn, who has played just about every position on the offensive line since he’s been in Athens, is the only senior up front for the Bulldogs. The 6-foot-2, 302-pound lineman was a standout guard the previous few seasons before moving over to left tackle. With Wynn now having the responsibility of protecting the blind side of Georgia’s quarterbacks, many pundits thought he was too small to play the position. However, he has seldom been beaten off the line of scrimmage through the first eight games of this season. Notably, Wynn, who is slotted at a position he probably won’t play at the next level, went 53 pass block snaps earlier in the year without even allowing an opposing quarterback pressure.
Left Guard: Kendall Baker (RS-Jr.)
Baker was all but forgotten on the depth chart before making a big impression over the spring and summer. Although he was the backup right tackle behind Greg Pyke last season, Baker had primarily been an afterthought at Georgia for meaningful playing time. Early in his career, the 6-foot-6, 287-pound guard even switched from the offensive to the defensive line in an attempt to see the field. That did not work out for Baker, and the coaching staff decided to bring him back to the offensive side of the ball. Now, he is starting next to Wynn, and the pair has done an excellent job maintaining the left side of the Bulldog line.
Center: Lamont Gaillard (RS-Jr.)
Gaillard might be the best center no one is talking about in the SEC. Georgia has had a succession of talented centers, like Ben Jones and David Andrews, so the pressure was on for Gaillard. After Brandon Kubalnow graduated, Gaillard switched positions after being the Bulldogs’ starting right guard in 2016. So far, Gaillard, who has yet to botch a snap, has routinely graded out as Georgia’s best lineman. Normally, it could take a couple years to get comfortable at center, but Gaillard’s switch to center has appeared effortless. He seems to have all the tools to play the position at the next level.
Right Guard: Solomon Kindley (RS-Fr.)
Pittman offered Solomon Kindley a scholarship shortly before Signing Day of 2016. The massive lineman from Florida didn’t have that many offers to begin with so the Georgia one was a big deal. Now, the redshirt freshman is the starting right guard for the top-ranked team in the country. After showing up at UGA overweight at over 350 pounds, Kindley soon began cutting out junk food while working hard in the strength and conditioning program. Now down to a 330-pound playing weight, the once-overlooked underdog ironically starts ahead of nearly all the four and five-star prospects Pittman has signed while at Georgia.
Right Tackle: Andrew Thomas (Fr.)
Thomas, a four-star prospect, committed to Georgia in July 2016 and never wavered. Subsequently, he kind of fell to the backburner in terms of recruiting buzz coming out of Athens when the “prized” offensive line recruit, five-star Isaiah Wilson, took the limelight. Still, Thomas believed in his abilities and promptly earned the starting right tackle spot in fall camp. He hasn’t looked back. At 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds, the true freshman has always had the size, but it has been his on-field performance, plus an uncanny ability to learn the playbook, which have kept him in the starting lineup.
Altogether, Georgia’s starting offensive line features two starters who both once played on the defensive side of the ball, one who has switched positions more than he switched cleats, one who nearly wasn’t recruited by Georgia and another who is just half a year removed from his senior prom. Therefore, it is easy to see why this hodgepodge of Dawgs was once thought of as likely a weakness for 2017. Instead, the patchwork of players, which has pushed around defensive lines all season, is a team strength.