ATHENS, Ga. -- There was a time not long ago when Greg Pyke was a reserve Georgia offensive lineman better known for being a lacrosse standout in his home city of Baltimore.
That changed last autumn.
The 6-foot-6, 313-pound redshirt junior cemented a starting spot at right guard for all 13 games and earned All-SEC second-team status. The Bulldogs averaged 457.8 yards per game and amassed at least 379 yards in every contest, becoming the first team in school history to post such a stat.
"It was awesome, and I never thought that would happen," said Pyke, who played in only two games during the 2013 season. "We've got a lot to look forward to this year, because we've got the best back in the nation, and whatever quarterback fills in there will do a great job."
Sophomore tailback Nick Chubb benefited from Pyke and his teammates last season up front, rushing for 1,547 yards and 7.1 yards per carry. Chubb had 1,323 yards in the last eight games, when he became the starter for a suspended and then an injured Todd Gurley, who wound up with 911 yards and 7.4 yards per carry in just six contests.
Former Bulldogs quarterback Hutson Mason threw for 21 touchdowns and four interceptions a year ago and was sacked just 17 times, which put Georgia tied for fourth in the SEC in that category, but those were last year's numbers. Pyke is among four returning starters up front, with the one departure being center David Andrews, so expectations are higher for the line than they were last summer.
"I think we'll do a great job," Pyke said. "We only lost one starter, but it was a big loss because he was a leader and a three-year starter. The spotlight is going to be on us, because a lot of people weren't expecting us to be very good last year. We came out and did well, and that puts a challenge on us every day."
Georgia bypassed its eighth preseason workout Monday afternoon, instead taking its annual trip to the pool inside the Ramsey Center.
"There's a certain time during camp when just you need one of those days, and a lot of times it has to do with the weather," Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said. "We had a little bit of a warning that there might be some weather coming in, and instead of sitting around waiting all day to practice, we decided to come on and do it."
Georgia's line will be headed by left tackle John Theus, a first-team preseason All-SEC selection at last month's Media Days event in Hoover, Ala., and Pyke, who was a second-team pick. College football analyst Phil Steele has Pyke as a first-team league pick along with Alabama's Ryan Kelly, LSU's Vadal Alexander, Ole Miss's Laremy Tunsil and Auburn's Avery Young.
Former left guard Brandon Kublanow has shifted to center with Isaiah Wynn taking his former spot, but those aren't the only changes to this year's line. Rob Sale is in his first season coaching that position at Georgia after being hired out of McNeese State to replace Will Friend, who left last December to become Mike Bobo's offensive coordinator at Colorado State.
"With a new offensive line coach, we have a different technique," Pyke said. "I know he's putting us in the best position to win, and he's talked to me about improving my hands and my footwork — stuff that I can really refine in fall camp to where I can be that much better in the fall.
"I want to be more of a technician this year."
Odds and ends
The Bulldogs will practice in full pads this morning and again tonight as a result of Monday's practice being scratched. Freshman receiver Terry Godwin is missing time with a shoulder injury. Georgia picked up the third commitment for its 2017 class Monday, receiving a nonbinding pledge from Devonta Smith (6-1, 160) of Amite, La. Smith is the nation's No. 17 athlete prospect according to 247Sports.com and had early scholarship offers from Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.