Georgia coaches gave Greg Pyke the award for the most improved player on offense this spring.
The redshirt sophomore‚Äôs upward trajectory actually took off during Gator Bowl practices, offensive line coach Will Friend said.
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs always been a very good athlete. He‚Äôs a powerful guy,‚Äù Friend said. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs the best athlete of the whole group and the light started clicking at the end of November … then he had a really outstanding bowl practice, I mean a really good bowl practice. It just kind of carried on over into winter workouts. He was outstanding in the mat drills and had a good spring.‚Äù
Georgia will enter preseason practices with Pyke holding down the starting right guard spot. Pyke is one of four players in seemingly strong position to start on the line, joining senior David Andrews, junior John Theus and senior Kolton Houston.
While other Georgia players are being asked to slim down, coaches seem comfortable that the 6-foot-6, 330-pound Pyke from Baltimore carries his weight well.
Coach Mark Richt said in meetings this week Friend seemed fine with Pyke at his current size.
‚ÄúCoach Friend was like, ‚ÄòI don‚Äôt care if he loses any weight or not because the guy can move as a big, strong powerful man,‚Äô‚Äù Richt said. ‚ÄúIf he drops five or 10 (pounds) that‚Äôs fine, but he doesn‚Äôt want to take away from his strength and his ability to move people off the line of scrimmage.‚Äù
Richt said Georgia probably will go with one of two starting lineups on the line that both include Andrews at center and Pyke at right guard.
One lineup would also have Theus at left tackle, sophomore Brandon Kublanow at left guard and Houston at right tackle. The other would include senior Mark Beard at left tackle, Houston at left guard and Theus at right tackle.
Senior Watts Dantzler, who missed time this spring with a concussion, could also make a push.
‚ÄúWe think he might could help us,‚Äù Richt said. ‚ÄúHe might get in the fight in the fall for a starting job.‚Äù
Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo were upbeat about the offensive line exiting the spring.
‚ÄúI think we‚Äôre going to be very good up front,‚Äù Richt said. ‚ÄúWe won‚Äôt be this dominating bunch of maulers, but they‚Äôre very well-coached, they know what they‚Äôre doing, they get their hat in the right spot, they run their feet on contact. They‚Äôve got a little meanness and toughness about them. If you do that, you‚Äôre going to create some space for these great backs and create some time for the quarterback to throw it. I think we‚Äôre going to be in good shape.‚Äù
Pyke‚Äôs emergence after playing in just two games last season has seemed to solidify the unit.
‚ÄúPyke‚Äôs done a nice job,‚Äù Bobo said. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs been one of the most consistent guys all spring. … You‚Äôve got to stay on Pyke‚Äôs butt. We‚Äôre going to stay on it because if he‚Äôll do what he‚Äôs supposed to do, he‚Äôs got a chance to be one of the better players that‚Äôs played here.‚Äù
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