UGASports - Spring Football Questions: Finding a new left tackle
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Spring Football Questions: Finding a new left tackle

If finding a replacement for left tackle Andrew Thomas doesn’t top Kirby Smart’s to-do list this spring, it’s certainly close.

Considering each of the quarterbacks vying for the starting job are right-handed, finding someone capable of protecting the ever-vulnerable blind side will obviously be key.

So, to whom will Smart and new offensive line coach Matt Luke turn?

Ultimately, five-star freshman Broderick Jones certainly projects at the position. Trouble is, Jones won’t arrive until late May and won’t be taking part in spring drills. This means some others will be getting a shot when practice gets underway on March 18.

But even if Jones is here, this year’s battle for the starting left tackle job bears a strong resemblance to 2017.

The Bulldogs opened their preparations for 2017 needing to find a replacement for Tyler Catalina, who held down the position during Smart’s first year as head coach after coming over as a graduate transfer from Rhode Island.

Many projected then-freshman Thomas would step right in and take over at left tackle. But that didn’t happen.

Instead, Smart and former OL coach Sam Pittman thought it best to let Thomas avoid some of that initial pressure by letting him start at right tackle, which he did for all 15 games during Georgia’s run to the national championship game.

Isaiah Wynn would be the man the Bulldogs turned to at left tackle, as coaches turned to the more experienced player, despite the fact the Tampa native -at 6-2 and 305 pounds-didn’t fit the physical stereotype for someone playing the position in the SEC.

Which brings us to today.

Although the Bulldogs have some younger candidates on hand such as redshirt freshman Warren McClendon and Xavier Truss, what returning player has the combination of athleticism and footwork needed to play the position?

If you guessed Jamaree Salyer, give yourself a cigar.

At 6-4 and 325 pounds, Salyer may not quite fit the picture, either, but he may be Georgia’s most athletic offensive lineman. He has played right tackle, so it’s not a stretch to think Smart and Luke wouldn’t consider giving him a shot ae left tackle this spring.

Going with a more experienced player like Salyer at left tackle over the true freshman Jones would seem like a logical course of action.

Also keep an eye on Tate Ratledge, Chad Lindberg and possibly Austin Blaske.

Of course, left tackle won’t be the only position up for grabs.

The Bulldogs need to find a new starter at right tackle to replace Isaiah Wilson, while center Trey Hill, along with projected starters Ben Cleveland (right guard) and Justin Shaffer (left guard), will still have to compete in order to hold onto their respective jobs.

Could Jamaree Salyer get a long look at left tackle? It's possible.
Could Jamaree Salyer get a long look at left tackle? It's possible. (Radi Nabulsi)

The top spring options

Jamaree Salyer
Class Height/Weight Notes

Junior

6-4/325

Played in 13 of 14 games for the Bulldogs including starts at right tackle against Murray State and Baylor in the Sugar Bowl.

The former five-star came to Georgia as one of the Bulldogs' highest-recruited offensive linemen in recent years, but because of the depth accrued by former offensive line coach Sam Pittman, he found it tough to crack the the starting lineup.

In fact, the only two starts he made came first as the result of an ankle injury to Isaiah Wilson and then later in the Sugar Bowl, when Wilson didn't make the trip after announcing he was leaving early for the NFL.

That won't be a problem this year. Salyer is expected to get an early look at left tackle, and if he proves capable, he certainly has a good chance of holding down the spot there this fall.

Xavier Truss
Class Height/Weight Notes

RS Freshman

6-7/330

Truss redshirted after playing in just three games but repped at left tackle as Thomas' backup for much of the year.

Truss played in three games last year—Murray State, Arkansas State, and Georgia Tech—but his season was mostly spent as a member of the Bulldog scout team.

There, he received looks at left tackle, and showed enough ability to get a chance at the position this spring.

He'll also get plenty of reps at right tackle, which ultimately is expected to be his home.

Warren McClendon
Class Height/Weight Notes

RS Freshman

6-4/320

Played against Murray State, Arkansas State, and Georgia Tech, as well as Baylor in the Sugar Bowl.

McClendon could see reps at left tackle for cross-training purposes. But like Truss, he's expected to see most of his time at right tackle, where he could compete for the starting job.

Coaches have been impressed with his work ethic.

Fighting the injury bug

Owen Condon
Class Height/Weight Notes

RS Sophomore

6-7/310

Played in just one game last fall and didn't travel to the Sugar Bowl due to what's believed was an ankle injury.

Condon repped at left tackle during practice last year, but it's unclear how available he'll be this spring, due to the injury he suffered late last year. He recently had another minor procedure on his shoulder.

If he is healthy, the Oklahoma native will get to rep at the position, but wouldn't be one of the favorites to capture the job.

The freshmen arriving later

Broderick Jones
Class Height/Weight Notes

Freshman

6-4/285

Former five-star won't arrive until late May, but is expected to get a quick indoctrination to left tackle once he does.

Some have already penciled Jones in as the starter, but let's not get carried away quite yet.

Certainly, the Lithonia native has the talent and does project one day to hold down the job.But his time may not quite be arriving, especially if Smart and Luke opt for the more experienced Salyer.

However, don't be surprised if Jones follows a similar path to Thomas and claims the starting job at right tackle his freshman year.

Tate Ratledge
Class Height/Weight Notes

Freshman

6-6/317

Former five-star expected to cross train at a couple of OL positions.

Coaches see Ratledge capable of playing a couple of positions on the offensive line.

Considered to have excellent footwork, Ratledge could be an early contributor. He was ranked as the No. 2 offensive tackle in the nation for 2020, only behind Jones.

Left tackle should be one of those spots he gets a long look.

Chad Lindberg
Class Height/Weight Notes

Freshman

6-6/315

Lindberg and his length certainly projects as a tackle. Like Ratledge, he’ll likely get looks at both.

Like Ratledge, Lindberg is expected to get looks at both left and right tackle.

Fundamentally, coaches love what he brings to to table. Lindberg also plays with a little mean steak that you certainly need for the position.

He’ll get ample opportunity to show how good he can be come fall.

Austin Blaske
Class Height/Weight Notes

Freshman

6-5/280

Former three-star is considered a late bloomer, but has all the physical attributes to one day be a left tackle.

Blaske may not be as heralded as the rest of Georgia's 2020 offensive line signees, but he certainly passes the eye test as someone who could one day play the position.

Georgia lists the former South Effingham standout at 280 pounds, although we've been told he's at 293.

Although it's a bit unclear where Luke will start Blaske out once he arrives in May, we understand left tackle could be a consideration.