Georgia’s most important players of 2015: No. 8 is …

Tackle John Theus (71) blocks Linebacker Leonard Floyd (84) during Georgia's annual G-Day game at Sanford Stadium on Saturday, April 12, 2014 in Athens, Ga.   (Photo by John Kelley)

Tackle John Theus (71) blocks Linebacker Leonard Floyd (84) during Georgia’s annual G-Day game at Sanford Stadium on Saturday, April 12, 2014 in Athens, Ga. (Photo by John Kelley)

We now resume our series, along with a reminder that this is not a ranking of Georgia’s best players. It is an evaluation of which players are most vital to the team’s success this season based on their own talent, the importance of their position, the depth at certain positions, and the strengths and weaknesses of the team.

No. 12 was freshman receiver Terry Godwin.

No. 11 was senior kicker Marshall Morgan.

No. 10 was the inside linebacker combination of juniors Reggie Carter and Tim Kimbrough.

No. 9 was sophomore receiver and specialist Isaiah McKenzie.

And yes, good blog people, that brings us to …



Left tackle

WHY HE’S VITAL: Because whoever is at quarterback – whether he lacks experience (Faton Bauta) or great mobility (Brice Ramsey and Greyson Lambert) – will need his blind side protected. Last year the ability of the line to protect in general was huge: Georgia yielded just 17 sacks, after averaging 26.8 sacks allowed per season from 2010-13. There were a lot of reasons for the improvement, including solid years from first-time starters Greg Pyke and Brandon Kublanow, the two guards. But it was also the first year at left tackle for Theus, who was the right tackle his first two seasons, and the former five-star recruit came through. Yes, the line was a team effort last year, and will have to be again. But if the quarterback can count on his left tackle, that will go a long way towards success. So it was a big relief to the program that Theus elected to come back for his senior season, rather than test the NFL waters.

QUOTABLE: “I pretty much knew I had a lot to work on and to come back. And a lot of stuff here as a team we want to accomplished we haven’t done. I didn’t really entertain the idea of leaving.” – Theus.

John Theus

John Theus

BEST CASE: Theus takes the next step, becoming an All-SEC candidate, and perhaps a first-teamer. Georgia’s line protects as well or better than last year, consistently giving the quarterback time to find his receiver. Theus and right tackle Kolton Houston also aid in the outside running game, helping make up for the loss of receivers Chris Conley and Michael Bennett, who were two good blockers.

WORST CASE: Theus remains good, but not great. It’s hard to see him having a fall-off, considering this is final year to impress the NFL, his size (6-foot-6 and 313) and his talent. But as Roy Hobbs’ father told him: “You’ve got a gift, Roy, but it’s not enough.” So you never know.

FINAL WORD: Georgia’s line was a strength in the eyes of those who watched the team closely last year, but it didn’t reach the level of Alabama or even Florida in terms of reputation. That will change this year if the upward progression continues. The big question is at center. There are no such questions at tackle, at least based on last year. The question is whether Theus can become the shut-down left tackle that Georgia envisioned when it recruited him four years ago.

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