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Taking A Look: Tackle
Contributed by Brian Butcher
Georgia offensive lineman Warren McClendon (70) during the Bulldogs’ practice session in Athens, Ga., on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Over the next couple of weeks, DogWatch will be examining each position group as spring practice nears, and Georgia gets started on prepping for the 2021 season.
So, let’s continue with the left and right tackle positions.
The trouble at tackle
Bulldog fans are hoping that their offense will reach new heights this upcoming season. Many starters are returning, especially at skill positions. Led by quarterback J.T. Daniels, this offense should be one of, if not the best offenses that Kirby Smart has had in his tenure. One area that is a concern is the offensive line, in particular the tackle position.
It is unclear who will win the starting job this fall at left tackle. Right tackle seems to be settled with redshirt sophomore Warren McClendon, who played in 10 games last season and should hold down his starting spot. Owen Condon should be the backup, as he played in four games at right tackle last season. The real trouble is predicting who will win the job at left tackle. Here are the candidates:
1) Jamaree Salyer
Why he will win it: Salyer may win the job because he has the most experience at left tackle on the team; he started at the position for nine games last season. A captain for two games, the coaches know and should trust Salyer to get the job done. Smart has always valued experience and Salyer has the most, which is why he may win the job.
Why he won’t: Despite his experience, Salyer is not the best fit for a tackle. He is a natural guard and his body is certainly more built for the interior line. At 6-foot-4, 325 pounds, Salyer lacks the length of a typical left tackle in the SEC. He likely would play guard at the next level, so it’s possible that Jamaree would prefer to play guard as it is. Despite his advantages, Salyer is up against still competition at the position. He stands in front of two five-star recruits.
Coach Smart noted on Salyer, “Jamaree obviously worked in at guard. He has the ability to play guard, and he’s proven he can play tackle in the SEC at a high level. If we need him to do that he can do it. If we need him to play inside, he’ll be able to do that.”
2) Xavier Truss
Why he will win the job: Xavier Truss is a 6-foot-7, 330-pound redshirt sophomore. He played in six games last season, but most importantly he started at left tackle in the CFA Peach Bowl against Cincinnati. This would indicate the preferred alignment for Kirby Smart and offensive line coach Matt Luke. He has a length advantage over Salyer and fits the typical build for a tackle.
Why he won’t: Truss had his ups and downs in the Cincinnati game, but he clearly struggled at the position. While the Bearcats were supposed to have a good defense and Truss was making his first start at tackle, he failed to impress. With as much time as he has spent in the program, one would have hoped that he would have transitioned into the role a little bit more smoothly.
3) Broderick Jones
Why he will win the job: Broderick Jones was a highly touted recruit in the 2019 class. The 6-foot-4, 315-pound redshirt freshman was hampered by injuries during his freshman year. He only played two games last season against South Carolina and Missouri. While Jones lacks size on paper, he reportedly has a massive wingspan that gives him the reach needed to play tackle.
Coach Matt Luke said, “I’m excited to see him compete in the spring. He does have a lot of ability. 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.”
Why he won’t: Jones simply will need more time. He lacks experience compared to Salyer and Truss. He’ll need to have a great spring and fall practice to have a shot at starting at tackle against Clemson.
4) Amarius Mims
Why he will win the job: The top-rated prospect in Georgia is finally on campus. Freshman Amarius Mims was considered one of the top prospects in all of high school football last year and routinely found himself ranked as one of the top ten high school players in the nation by recruiting sites. There is a lot of buzz about Mims, and many are optimistic that he could be the next great player to come through Georgia at tackle.
Why he won’t: Mims, although talented, is likely going to be well behind his competition heading into spring. He won’t have a single college rep under his belt. Despite his talent, it seems like he’ll be a year or two away from playing left tackle. If Mims’ talent is undeniable, he may see time at right tackle first, as Andrew Thomas played his freshman season at right tackle before moving over to left tackle for the remainder of his career.
It’s anyone’s guess who will end up starting at left tackle against Clemson this fall. If I had to choose, I would put my money on Truss at the moment. I have to believe there was a good reason Matt Luke placed him there against Cincinnati. While I expect Jones to make a push for the starting job as the season goes on, I think Truss has the advantage for now and Salyer is a better fit at left guard. Mims is the wildcard, and he could really upset the applecart if he wows this spring. For now, Truss seems to be the most likely option.
Check out the other Take A Look previews: