Georgia’s rising offensive linemen come from lacrosse, tennis backgrounds

Georgia offensive line coach Will Friend’s candidates to start at right guard this season include a player who fired on goal with a stick in his hands in high school and another who showed a knack swinging a racket to hit balls over the net before he was a teenager.

Greg Pyke and Brandon Kublanow look the part of offensive linemen.

Pyke is 6-foot-6 and 330. Kublanow is 6-foot-3 and 292 pounds.

Now imagine Pyke as a lacrosse attacker and Kublanow playing tennis growing up.

“When I was young I was like top 10 in the state when I was 12 or so,” said Kublanow, from Walton High School in Marietta.

“He moves really well as a big guy, too,” Pyke said. “You’ve got to be quick to run the back line in tennis and to move around in lacrosse.”

Kublanow, a sophomore, is from football-crazy Georgia. He said he probably hasn’t picked up a racket since before he came to Georgia in the summer of 2013. His brother, Joey, was ranked as a top 75 national player for his age group in 2007. Brandon said they traveled around the South to play in tournaments.

Pyke, a redshirt sophomore, hails from Maryland, which made lacrosse its official state sport in 2004. He played football and lacrosse at Boys’ Latin in Baltimore, which is ranked No. 1 in the nation among high school lacrosse teams.

He began playing lacrosse when he was 6 and played football for the first time as a freshman in high school.

Pyke ended up at Georgia after traveling to summer football camps with his father before his senior year.

He reluctantly stopped at Georgia on the way back from a camp at Alabama after his father signed him up. He did so well that coach Mark Richt offered him a scholarship.

Pyke picked Georgia over Penn State and others.

“I always wanted to go to school in the South,” he said. “I just liked the whole feel of it.”

His brother, Andrew, had already headed South to play lacrosse at North Carolina after also playing football in high school. A sister, Lauren, also played in college.

Maryland had the third most youth lacrosse players in the nation with 40,259, behind only New York and Massachusetts, according to a 2012 survey by U.S. Lacrosse.

Pyke was a force around the crease as a goal-scorer.

“Football is the second sport up there,” Pyke said. “When I come down here, football is like a religion. When I go back home in May, I’ll go see a lacrosse game. That’s the big-time sport.”

Pyke didn’t know if he would play lacrosse or football in college until he began getting football scholarship offers as a sophomore.

“Lacrosse doesn’t give those full scholarships,” said Pyke, who drew interest from ACC lacrosse programs.

Pyke replaced Kublanow as the starting right guard during last Tuesday’s practice when Kublanow battled the flu and remained in that spot all week, including during Saturday’s scrimmage.

“It’s a good battle,” Richt said. “They’re both very capable. Pyke’s a bigger man. Probably a little better pass protector. Kublanow is not quite as big but I think he’s got a better concept as a run blocker. He’s got to improve on his pass protection some.”

Kublanow backed up Dallas Lee at left guard last season and played extensively in the Gator Bowl against Nebraska.

Kublanow is working this spring on grasping exactly what he has to do, improving his footwork and his hand placement. Pyke said his technique is getting better and he has a better grasp of the plays.

“They’re both really strong guys,” right tackle Kolton Houston said. “They remind me a lot of Dallas because they’re both abnormally strong. It’s nice to be able to block with them. They’re picking up what to do so we’re starting to play faster and we’re starting to jell out there.”

Pyke said he can play faster now than when he first got to Georgia out of a small high school program.

“I get made fun of because I’ve got the long torso,” Pyke said.

Senior Mark Beard began the spring as the starter at left guard and junior Zach DeBell worked that spot Friday and Saturday.

“I think right now both guard spots are open or will be,” Kublanow said.

No matter how things play out, Georgia figures to count on the former lacrosse player and the former tennis player this season.

“I think that’s where we get our quickness from,” Pyke said, “playing those sports.”

 

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