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Smart, Shaffer talk about Georgia's offensive line
Georgia is officially done with fall camp after the conclusion of its second scrimmage, which was played in Sanford Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 21.
The Bulldogs’ offensive line seems to be finding some cohesion following camp. Regardless, there are still some questions about who will play where before the season opener against Clemson. There are so many options at each position and Georgia has a lot of depth down the chart, so head coach Kirby Smart and position coach Matt Luke are close to putting the finishing touches on the unit.
Georgia had Jamaree Salyer at left tackle, Justin Shaffer at left guard, Sedrick Van Pran at center, Tate Ratledge at right guard and Warren McClendon at right tackle, per a source. These five Bulldogs were No. 1 at each of their respective positions during the final scrimmage. So, heading into the first week of practice, this could be the blueprint moving forward. Nevertheless, things could always change in the blink of an eye and someone could be shifted to another position, or a backup could step up and take over a starting role.
Smart highlighted that he feels confident about the offensive line following Saturday’s scrimmage.
"We've really settled into the five that are repping with the 1s," Smart said. "We just rotate to get depth. We rotate guys around and there's still good competition at tackle, there's good competition going on at center. When Warren's been healthy to practice since his return from the injury. So he's been able to practice some and do some things. And then Shaffer and Tate have been primary at guard, but we've shuffled some other guys around at guard to get different guys in there.”
Warren Ericson suffered a hand injury a couple of weeks ago, which led to the realignment on the offensive line. Van Pran has been receiving most of the snaps in his absence. However, Salyer has also worked at both center and left guard as well. Now, it seems like the veteran senior has been moved back to the exterior part of the offensive line. So, things look to be falling into place as Georgia prepares for Clemson in the season opener.
Shaffer said earlier this week that the transition process has been smooth since losing Ericson.
“Losing him really hurt, but in football, you’re going to have roadblocks,” Shaffer said. “You’ve just got to move on, and the guys at that spot have to fill his position.”
Smart would agree with that sentiment.
“I feel good about our depth at offensive line, you know, and we still have time to determine who the starting five will be, in terms of the tackles,” Smart said. “But it's not like we're out there doing musical chairs. I mean, they play 20 plays one way and they might play 20 another way just to get the best guys on the field."
Ratledge, who started with the first-team offense on G-Day, has really come on strong following an excellent fall camp. The 6-foot-6, 320-pound lineman has impressed his coaches and teammates since the beginning of spring workouts. So, it’s only fitting that he is being rewarded with more reps as the No. 1 right guard
Shaffer said that Ratledge is finally hitting his stride going into year two with the program.
“Tate (Ratledge) has grown up a lot,” Shaffer said. “When you put on the tape of his freshman and sophomore years, you can tell he’s improved a whole lot. He’s only going to get better from here.”
The addition of Ratledge and Van Pran moving into pivotal starting roles is great for the future of the team. However, Smart doesn’t want to settle with just five guys and has expressed that the competition for spots on the depth chart will never end. In that case, once Ericson is 100 percent healthy, he will be continuing to battle for that top spot in the middle. Then, Xavier Truss, Broderick Jones and Amarius Mims will all compete for snaps as well.
Smart pointed out last week that three of those guys won’t be forgotten about.
“Because we worked Jamaree and Sedrick both in at the ones at center, that allowed us to work other tackles,” Smart said. “Broderick (Jones) has worked at tackle with Jamaree bumping inside. (Xavier) Truss has been able to work some at tackle and guard. Amarius (Mims) has been able to work some at tackle alongside Warren McClendon.”
The No. 5 Bulldogs kick off the season against the No. 4 Tigers on Sept. 4 at 7:30 p.m. in Charlotte.
Here is the video from Shaffer’s interview: