As we look at the interior of the offensive line today, the same theme applies that we mentioned when looking at the incoming offensive tackles: offensive line is an “and” position, where one of the most important factors is having no weak links along the front. Last season, Kenny Cooper, Mikey Minihan, Ryan Johnson, and Jack Defoor played the majority of the interior snaps for GT, and all but Defoor will return for the 2021 season. Additionally, Paula Vaipulu received strong praise from the coaching staff for his play on the developmental team last year and should compete for playing time this fall. However, no one in this group has definitively locked down a starting spot, and GT brings in two guys who hope to meaningfully enter the rotation this fall.
Weston Franklin announced his commitment to Georgia Tech on August 10th:
His pledge to Georgia Tech was immediately notable because of the strong list of reported offers he held, including LSU, Miami, and Michigan. He’s the highest rated offensive lineman to commit to GT during the Collins era, arriving as a three star player rated at 5.7 on rivals, 87.8 in the 247 composite, and 87 on 247 Sports. Hailing from Wayne County High School in Jesup, GA, Franklin already has game-ready size at 6-3, 308 pounds. As an early enrollee, he will benefit greatly from the chance to participate in offseason workouts and spring ball.
HIs midseason senior highlights show a guy who is determined to finish his block every single play. His drive and determination jump out as he works to get to the second level and plays to the whistle every time. He’s clearly skilled and experienced in down blocking, and he played almost everywhere on the offensive line, so he has worked at blocking different angles and gaps. His team appeared to do very little drop back passing; most of the attempts were out of RPOs, so Franklin was essentially still run blocking. He will have room to develop both mentally and physically to effectively block in the drop back passing game, and his early enrollment gives him a head start on that. I would not be surprised to see him in the guard rotation by the middle of the season.
Nick Pendley announced his decision to transfer from Mississippi State to Georgia Tech on November 27th:
Coming out of Creekview High School in Canton, GA, Pendley was recruited by Coach Collins and company right after they came on board at GT in the fall of 2018, but he was already committed to Mississippi State and chose to stick with them. He redshirted in 2019, and over the course of two seasons in Starkville, he saw playing time in 6 games. With the free year of eligibility in 2020, Pendley could play up to four years at GT. He checks in already at 6-5, 320 lbs. He will compete to be above the line and perhaps start at either of the guard positions or at center, but he is largely unproven at the college level.
His senior film from high school shows a physical blocker who loves to get downhill in the running game. The high school film shows relatively few pass blocking snaps, and some limited footage from a 2018 Rivals camp demonstrates that pass blocking is where he needs to continue his development. Coach Key should be able to help with Pendley’s first step and hand placement to help him keep pass rushers from getting around his outside shoulder.
With the allotment of playing time along the interior of the offensive line very much up in the air, Coach Key adds two guys who should expect to vie for snaps this fall. Both show solid skill and tenacity in the run game, and it will be a matter of fine-tuning pass blocking technique that determines if either or both of these guys can cement a spot on the line this fall. They will get every chance to show what they can do.