As we debate the importance of individual players in the ultimate team sport, here’s a useful quote from Vince Lombardi: “Individual commitment to a group effort, that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”
Lombardi, in his playing days, was an interior lineman. In fact he was the right guard on Fordham’s celebrated “Seven Blocks of Granite.” Yes, Fordham was a football power back then, and in 1936 it was in national title contention until a tie at home against… Georgia.
(That was an otherwise blah 5-4-1 season for Harry Mehre’s Bulldogs, but they beat Florida and Georgia Tech and tied Vince Lombardi, something Mark Richt has never done, and it’s doubtful he ever will.)
If Georgia wants to avoid another blah season, it will be up to, as Lombardi the former interior lineman put it, the “individual commitment” of a number of players. We’ve been ranking them, and so far:
No. 12 was freshman receiver Terry Godwin.
No. 11 was senior kicker Marshall Morgan.
No. 10 was the inside linebacker combo of juniors Reggie Carter and Tim Kimbrough.
No. 9 was sophomore receiver and return specialist Isaiah McKenzie.
No. 8 was senior left tackle John Theus.
No. 7 was the outside linebacking trio of Jordan Jenkins, Leonard Floyd and Lorenzo Carter.
And now we arrive at somebody who might have been dear to Lombardi’s heart:
6. ISAIAH WYNN
WHY HE’S VITAL: This could also include Brandon Kublanow, who very well could end up the starting center. And how well the offensive line, and indeed the entire offense, replaces David Andrews is a major key for Georgia’s offense. But whether it’s Wynn or Kublanow actually taking the snaps this year, it’s Wynn who projects to take Andrews’ vacant spot. You’ll keep hearing between now and the season opener that Georgia returns four offensive line starters. Well, whoever is the fifth is key, for obvious reasons, but also because there could be an injury to one of the starters, and Wynn’s performance would become all the more important. You could also argue that Wynn deserves to be higher on this list, and the reason he’s not is because he’s not guaranteed to be the center, and that if he falters this season Georgia still has four experienced starters around him.
QUOTABLE: “I always knew Isaiah Wynn was a competitor. But he shot me on one play, coming inside. He snatched me up real quick.” – Senior OLB Jordan Jenkins
BEST CASE: Wynn masters center, allowing Kublanow to stay at left guard. But even if he doesn’t and ends up at left guard, Wynn’s strength and athleticism carries him, and Georgia’s offensive line is even better than last year.
WORST CASE: Wynn not only doesn’t master center, but his size (6-foot-2 and 283 pounds) is a detriment in some matchups. He doesn’t last long as a starter, resulting in some unwanted movement along the line. One of the strengths of last year’s line – the fact every player started at the same position for every game – doesn’t get repeated in 2015, and the offense suffers as a result.
FINAL WORD: Wynn may not have been a five-star recruit, but since he arrived in the summer of 2014 he has stood out to teammates and coaches, and been projected as a future starter. That starting spot almost surely arrives this season, albeit without much game experience. But Greg Pyke and Brandon Kublanow were just as inexperienced last year and transitioned well as first-year starters. All Wynn needs to do this year is have the same kind of impact, and having four returning starters around him should make that a lot easier.