Battle in the trenches: Georgia offensive line shaping up to be one of the best in the nation

Photo by Jeffrey Vest/TN. Sports Photo

Georgia offensive lineman Andrew Thomas speaks during SEC Football Media Days at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham on Tuesday in Hoover, Alabama. The Bulldogs are expected to have one of the top offensive lines in the country this season.

HOOVER, Ala. — Across the Southeastern Conference, full-bodied and talented offensive linemen can be found on almost any team. But Georgia’s group of blockers and one of their leaders, Andrew Thomas, stood out among the rest at the 2019 SEC Media Days.

Thomas, a junior who has started every game in his Georgia career on the offensive line, was the player who represented the group at Georgia’s media availability on Tuesday, July 16.

“He doesn’t say a whole lot all the time,” head coach Kirby Smart said about Thomas. “That’s why it’s fun to bring him to this event. I told him today as we got off the plane: ‘Andrew, you’re going to have to talk today.’”

When Thomas did talk to the media, he was measured and charismatic, never batting an eye at any question. After losing senior offensive linemen like Lamont Gaillard and Kendall Baker, Thomas is expected to step up.

“(We’re) basically just trying to mentor the young guys,” Thomas said. “Teach them the plays, teach them the basics of the technique before they get into camp.”

Thomas isn’t the only leader in the group and viewed it as more of a collective group — a “family,” as he put it.

“We’re all just good friends, or buddies, whatever you want to call it,” Thomas said. “I think it makes it easier when we play together, when you’re playing next to somebody that you care about.”

Florida defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga said Georgia’s offensive line is a highlight of its team and maybe one of the best he’s faced.

“I feel like they’re one of the (better) offensive lines I’ve played in my career,” Zuniga said. “So hats off to those guys.”

Last season, Georgia led the SEC in rushing yards on the backs of their lead blockers, like Thomas, who opened up holes for running backs D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield. The offensive line also only allowed quarterback Jake Fromm to be sacked 16 times throughout the season.

Now, seven offensive linemen who saw significant playing time in 2018 are returning to the Bulldogs.

“They’re a unit that has played a lot of football together,” Fromm said. “Guys who are very talented, very large human beings.”

Alongside the returnees, the Bulldogs also added three new highly touted offensive line recruits to their ranks — five-star center Clay Webb, as well as four-star tackles Xavier Truss and Warren McClendon.

The Georgia offensive line comes into the season as a potential winner of the Joe Moore award, given to the nation’s top offensive line, which the Bulldogs have been finalists for the past three seasons.

With all of the depth on the offensive line coming into the 2019 season, even Smart doesn’t know how the starting five will look, but will get a better feel when fall practices start up in early August.

“We’ve got some really good competition across the board,” Smart said. “The unique thing, we’ve got some guys who have started games who may not be starters .. I love the competition we’ve got at the offensive line.”

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