ATHENS—Entering spring practice, it was likely the biggest question mark for the Georgia Bulldogs besides who was going to start at quarterback: who is going to be the starter snapping the ball to the unknown starting signal caller?
With the departure of standout center David Andrews, nicknamed “Boss,” there is a void to fill along Georgia’s offensive line, which returns the other four starters, and emerging are three prime candidates: a senior with some experience at the position, a junior who started at guard last season, and a sophomore who actually has never played center before.
Each of the three candidates has been getting reps with the first-team unit through 10 spring practices, including two scrimmages. Regardless, unlike the quarterback position, where who will start still seems somewhat up in the air, it is rather clear who is currently the top candidate as the Bulldogs’ starting center.
“You gotta ask Coach Richt that,” Hunter Long answered, smiling when asked if, like the quarterbacks, the centers were rotating from the first through the third-unit offenses with each practice. “But, we’re basically all competing together.”
Long, a fifth-year senior who has appeared in games dating back to the 2011 season, has played in 14 career contests as a reserve, including last season when he came off the bench against Florida for an injured Andrews. Heading into winter workouts, Long seemed the logical choice to be the team’s starting center under the direction of newly-hired offensive line coach Rob Sale.
Sale, who started at both offensive guard and center for LSU during the early 2000s, asked junior Brandon Kublanow in the spring to also give center a shot. Kublanow started all 13 of Georgia’s games a year ago at left guard and likely will remain at the position in 2015, while appearing to be a distant third at the center spot.
“[Coach] Sale is more of technical guy than Coach Friend,” said Kublanow, when asked to compare the Bulldogs’ new offensive line coach to the one from before—Will Friend, who left for Colorado State. “They’re both great coaches.”
Last week, although Sale indicated the competition for the top spot was “close between the three,” the coach only spoke of one individual when asked if he had a better feel for what Georgia “had” at the position.
“He did a good job in the [first] scrimmage,” said Sale regarding sophomore Isaiah Wynn, who currently appears to be the top dog at Georgia’s center position. “He kept moving forward; you want to constantly see him get better from the week before, and he did that.”
Wynn played admirably in a reserve role primarily at guard in 11 games last season, including one start as an extra tight end when Georgia lined up in a jumbo set for their first offensive play against Tennessee. He has never played center—that is, until now.
“I knew it would be a lot of responsibility,” said Wynn regarding the extra obligations the center position carries compared to the guards and tackles. “[I would hear] it from Boss (Andrews); he would always tell me that eventually I probably would be moved to center. It’s a lot of work.”
Wynn added the biggest difference between playing center compared to the other offensive line positions is having the responsibility of communicating more to teammates. He says the best advice Andrews gave him regarding preparing to be a center is “stay in the film room.”
Wynn worked with the first-unit offense at center for both of Georgia’s spring scrimmages, and seems likely to do the same for this Saturday’s G-Day Game. Nevertheless, Sale stressed his philosophy for not only spring practice, but fall camp as well, is “all jobs are open.” Therefore, although Wynn seems to be the lead candidate to take over for Andrews in 2015, it appears who will become the Bulldogs’ next “Boss” is far from a certainty.