The Final Question on Offense: Who Plays Left Tackle?

With the addition of wide receiver Arik Gilbert, Georgia has few questions headed into the 2021 season, except one. Who will play left tackle?
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Back in March during spring practice at the University of Georgia, a major question mark arose when wide receiver George Pickens suffered an ACL tear. 

It created doubt about Georgia's young receiver corps headed into a pivotal 2021 season where they look to become even more explosive offensively. 

In typical fashion, head coach Kirby Smart didn't take long to fill the void left by Pickens. The addition of former LSU tight end turned Georgia wide receiver Arik Gilbert all but answered the questions on the offensive side of the ball. 

They have a plethora of running backs at their disposal, a talented group of receivers and tight ends, and with quarterback JT Daniels receiving Heisman hype headed into the fall, they've all but answered any potential questions or concerns. 

Except one. Left tackle. 

It's not a matter of talent or potential. Georgia has signed a bevy of elite targets at the tackle position in recent memory including Broderick Jones and Amarius Mims. However, both are young and inexperienced. 

Senior Jamaree Salyer played well in his lone season as a tackle in 2020 after having spent two years as an interior depth piece along the offensive line for Georgia. 

Warren McClendon played at a freshman All-America level in 2020 and is expected to remain at right tackle in 2021. So, that leaves the question: Who plays left tackle for Georgia this fall? 

Options

The great news for Georgia fans — and the protection of Daniels' back side — is that Georgia has plenty of options to go with at left tackle, but there are questions with each. 

Jamaree Salyer 

As mentioned before, Salyer played well in 2020 but was certainly out of position. Salyer pictures himself more as an interior offensive lineman and his physical profile, as well as NFL potential, agree. He's a good tackle, but he's a great guard. However, considering his experience at tackle, he could be Georgia's best option in the season opener against a juggernaut front seven from Clemson. 

Broderick Jones 

An immensely talented prospect entering college, Jones took some time getting accustomed to the speed of the collegiate game, as almost all young tackles do. He's 6-foot-6, 315 pounds, and is an extremely gifted athlete. As a true freshman a year ago, sources raved about Jones' pass-blocking capabilities, but questioned his ability to move people off the point in the run game, something that comes with time in an SEC weight room. 

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Xavier Truss

When Georgia's offensive line coach Matt Luke elected to move Salyer to guard to replace Ben Cleveland in the Peach Bowl to end the 2020 season, it was Truss that got the start at left tackle. He didn't perform up to the standard of even Salyer, but he played well considering it was his first career start. At 6-foot-7, 315 pounds, he's physically imposing and dominant in the run game but can become labored in pass protection, something that doesn't bode well against a team like Clemson. 

Amarius Mims

Sources close to the Georgia program have expressed that it's not a matter of if Mims starts at left tackle for Georgia, but rather when. He has first-rounder written all over him as a freshman in college. Rarely does a true freshman start in the SEC, but even more rarely does one start at left tackle to begin the season. However, it's worth noting that during the G-Day scrimmage, it was Mims playing left tackle with the second unit, not Jones. 

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Conclusion

In order for Georgia's offensive line to reach its maximum potential in 2021, it is our belief that Salyer needs to be playing guard. However, with the season opener against a front seven like Clemson, it's much easier to protect an inexperienced player along the interior of the offensive line as opposed to the left-tackle spot. 

Therefore, we see Salyer getting the nod to start the season, with Tate Ratledge playing guard until one Mims, Jones or Truss is ready to take over at left tackle. 

Our money is on Mims protecting JT Daniels' blind side by the middle of the season. 

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