Matt Luke discusses the offensive line rebuild
Offensive line coach Matt Luke admits there are still plenty of questions regarding who plays where for the Bulldogs this fall. Just don't expect answers anytime soon.
When Georgia kicks off spring practice on March 16, finding the “best possible” five linemen will obviously be part of the question, but according to Luke, it goes much deeper than that.
“I think we've been focusing on culture and unselfishness and buying in. Guys like Jamaree [Salyer] coming back and (Justin) Shaffer and Warren Ericson, they have been doing a great job of leading. I think, with guys that have some experience, it does give you a little bit of flexibility,” Luke said. “Without having a spring last year, I'm really excited about the competition coming up this spring.”
With Ben Cleveland and Trey Hill having moved on to the NFL, there's going to be a new look to Georgia's offensive line.
Among the possible changes are Jamaree Salyer potentially moving from left tackle to guard and Justin Shaffer flipping over to right guard.
“I think that anytime you have to replace people, it's tough, especially going against a quality defense. I do think that, moving forward, we have some pieces to the puzzle, but they have to go in there and get the experience,” Luke said.
Georgia fans saw what the offensive line could potentially look like during the Bulldogs’ Peach Bowl win over Cincinnati.
In the game, Xavier Truss made his first career start at left tackle, with Salyer moving over to left guard and Shaffer starting at right guard.
Ericson started in place of Hill at center, and is expected to compete with Sedrick Van Pran-Granger for the starting job this spring.
“To me, that was just a starting point. Now you move forward. You have 15 practices in the spring, then you have all summer, then you have fall camp,” Luke said. “It's some experience—like, for Xavier, he got his feet wet. You're looking to build off that in these practices, and obviously summer and fall camp. So you're excited that you can really build off of that experience.”
Luke was also asked about redshirt freshman Broderick Jones and true freshman Amarius Mims, two youngsters who potentially could work their way into the starting lineup with a strong spring.
“I'm excited to see [Jones] compete in the spring. He does have a lot of ability,” Luke said. “I’m just excited to see him get in there and compete and get the reps. Going against quality guys on defense, I think that will be key as well.”
Ditto for Mims.
“I'm really excited about him. He's handled his business,” Luke said. “You've got to think, he should be probably getting ready for senior prom. But he's here working. I'm just really excited to see how he does in spring ball.”
All spots are up for grabs.
“Obviously, competition is huge at every position," Luke said. "Anytime you have competition, I think that's what makes Georgia special, the ability to have competition at those positions. It makes everybody better.”
Wherever he plays, Salyer’s leadership ability will play a key role.
Salyer and Schaffer are the only seniors on the offensive line, and that experience should prove invaluable to what otherwise will include a number of young players who will make up the two-deep.
“Not only [Salyer's] flexibility, but his leadership. I think that's huge. Coach Smart has done a great job this offseason preaching unselfishness, preaching about culture, and Jamaree is a huge part of that, with him coming back,” Luke said. “With his flexibility, he's going to play guard, and he's going to play tackle. Based on how some of the other pieces do, it does give you some flexibility and competition.”