Georgia Tech offensive guard Will Jackson remembers walking off the plane on his way home from the Sun Bowl last year, looking around at his fellow linemen, and thinking, ‘we get everybody back.’
“We’re not losing anybody up front,” he said. “Not just the first team, but guys who were backups. Everybody is back. It was kind of that moment where you’re like, ‘this is going to have to be the unit to kind of carry the team, or at least help build that foundation going into camp.’”
Georgia Tech’s offensive line, with four starters returning, has the chance to be the deepest, most talented group up front that coach Paul Johnson has had since he was hired at the school. Jackson, senior guard Omoregie Uzzi, and center Jay Finch will help pave the way for one of the nation’s top rushing offenses. Last year, the Jackets finished the season No. 2 in the country at 316.46 rushing yards per game.
This year, they’re aiming for No. 1.
“We’re just trying to take it to the next level and dominate everybody across from us,” said Uzzi, who is on the watch lists for both the Rotary Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy. “Coach Johnson has a set plan. We all know what we need to do. We just need to execute.”
The biggest difference this year, they said, is the depth. Jackson said he couldn’t get much of a break as a freshman in 2010 because there wasn’t a lot of depth behind him. Now, he said there are four guards capable of starting.
“We have the expectation that we aren’t going to lose a game this year,” said Jackson, who is entering his third season as a starter. “In terms of our depth, I’m looking around and there are probably 10 guys who are capable of playing at this level. We haven’t had that before. That’s definitely going to help us out.”
The linemen have been meeting for individual drills twice a week for about 35-45 minutes each day to focus on footwork and hand placement, and to make sure they haven’t lost anything since spring. They’ve been running in the heat, lifting, and working on plyometric drills to help with their explosiveness.
Last year, the offense was missing a superstar the likes of Jonathan Dwyer or Anthony Allen, but starting tackle Ray Beno said the Jackets don’t need one -- they can get it done by committee. Beno said the linemen will be taking their blocking “to another level this year” in trying to get the Jackets to the No. 1 spot in the country for rushing yardage.
“We take a lot of pride in it,” Beno said. “It definitely isn’t something that’s given to you. We’re a group that’s up to the challenge to do it again this year.”
And this year, they’ve got both the depth and the talent to do it.