Georgia 2020 Depth Chart Preview: Interior Offensive Line
The interior of Georgia's offensive line will be the most experienced group for Kirby Smart's offense in 2020, by a long shot. Trey Hill, Ben Cleveland, and Justin Shaffer are all upperclassmen and have played meaningful regular-season snaps for the Dawgs. Warren Ericson also earned a start in the Sugar Bowl and gained some in-game wisdom due in part to the absence of Cleveland and the moving of Jamaree Salyer and former Bulldog turned Tennessee Volunteer, Cade Mays to tackle in the place of Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson.
These four players have an opportunity to be a solid collective force in the SEC just based on their size and athleticism. Georgia's run game will undoubtedly be more diversified with the addition of Matt Luke to the offensive staff and some of the scheme adjustments could provide opportunities for some younger Bulldogs to shine as well.
Let's take a look at the depth chart preview of the interior OL as it stands today going into spring ball.
CENTER - 1. TREY HILL, 2. CLAY WEBB
Trey Hill has an opportunity to cement himself as the unquestioned leader of this offense in 2020. Hill has now started 18 games for the Bulldogs, 14 of those start coming at the center position. With the departure of Jake Fromm to the NFL, there could be potential added responsibility coming Hill's way. A new quarterback will be at the helm for the Dawgs without the grasp of the offense that Fromm had. Trey quite possibly could be asked to do more in terms of protections and adjustments in the run game.
Hill has flashed incredible abilities during his tenure at Georgia. The thing that Matt Luke and company will be looking for from the 6'4" 330 Junior is consistency. Arguably the only true full-time starter from the 2019 campaign, it is imperative that Hill plays with the intensity and focus that he is capable of from start to finish. At times there were issues with snaps and occasionally Hill got himself beat with footwork. In the offseason, it will be crucial for him to improve his conditioning in order to be able to sustain the incredible talent and strength he possesses and lead this Georgia line for four quarters.
Clay Webb was a 5-star prospect for a reason coming out of high school. Webb has tremendous feet and athleticism. After seeing limited action in his Redshirt Freshman season, the Oxford, Alabama native will come into the spring ready to push for playing time. He has had time to develop in the strength and conditioning program and will be an option at guard for the Dawgs as well.
Here's the film room breakdown of all the guys we will discuss in this article.
GUARDS - 1. JUSTIN SHAFFER/BEN CLEVELAND, 2. WARREN ERICSON, 3. CLAY WEBB
Ben Cleveland and Justin Shaffer each faced adversity at points in the 2019 campaign. Cleveland ended the season shrouded in intrigue due to grade issues that caused him to miss the Sugar Bowl and Shaffer missed the last 8 games of 2019 with a neck injury. When healthy and available the two help to create a massive trio in the middle, along with Trey Hill, as Shaffer is identical to Hill in size at 6'4" 330 and Cleveland is a staggering 6'6" 340 pounds with not an ounce of fat on him it seems.
Justin Shaffer announced via Twitter yesterday that he was officially cleared to resume football activities. The injury was very untimely as Shaffer had just cracked the starting lineup against Tennessee and South Carolina in his Junior season. Now a Senior and on the mend physically, Shaffer will be called upon to bring the combination athleticism and tenacity that earned him the playing time in the first place to the left side of the UGA line. Shaffer also seems to be a good fit for Matt Luke's preference to pull guards.
Ben Cleveland for the first time in his career could be looked upon as "the guy" at the right guard position. The Toccoa, Georgia native split time with Cade Mays over the past two seasons and received the start at the position in 7 of the 13 games he was available for in 2019. Cleveland has sheer size and power that are nearly unmatched. There are times when the attention to detail and his technique suffer, but as Senior and with hunting buddy Jake Fromm gone it will be key for big Ben to put it all together.
There were some questions as to whether or not Cleveland would declare for the draft and he certainly has the size to make NFL GMs take notice. An impressive and consistent Senior campaign in 2020 could sky-rocket up draft boards in 2021. Ultimately, it'll be interesting to see how he meshes with offensive line coach Matt Luke after not being able to participate in the bowl game.
Finally, we have come to Warren Ericson. The soon to be Redshirt Sophomore got an opportunity to start against Baylor in the Sugar Bowl and at times showed his inexperience at the college level. A center coming out of high school, the Suwanee, Georgia native would primarily work at guard in preparation for the 2020 campaign we believe. At 6'4" 305, Ericson has the build and the body movement that would actually lend themselves better to pulling and wrapping in GAP schemes, should Georgia continue to add variety to the run game, perhaps even better than Shaffer and Cleveland.
He'll continue to develop strength and conditioning-wise in order to be able to get movement on defenders and sustain blocks, or strain as Kirby Smart calls it, in the zone run game. With time his understanding of combo blocks and ability to play with his eyes will improve. Also, due to his background, Ericson has the ability to continue to cross-train at the center position. Getting to go against live rounds, so to speak, in the Sugar Bowl for an extended run can only help Warren leading into an important offseason. He, along with the aforementioned Clay Webb, will be crucial to the depth at the guard position for the Bulldogs.
Assuming Sedrick Van Pran does indeed sign his NLOI in February and is on campus in Athens come August, he has the ability to compete for playing time early. Especially when you consider that the game of football is one of attrition. There are bound to be injuries along that front line, and SVP could be called upon to step in.
He plays with a one of a kind effort and drive, and he's got the size and strength to compete early.