Just hours after landing a commitment from 2017 offensive lineman Jordan Shaffer, the Georgia Bulldogs received a pledge from Tyler Catalina, a graduate transfer with one year of eligibility remaining after having played three years for the FCS Rhode Island Rams.
At 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds, Catalina’s frame will work well for him at left tackle, where he is projected to start. Considered to be the most important lineman to a right-handed quarterback like Jacob Eason, a prototypical left tackle has some of the most active footwork on the offensive line, has the longest arms, and is probably the best individual athlete.
Catalina’s recruitment was essential for the Bulldogs for several reasons:
1. UGA loses John Theus, a four-year starter at left tackle, to exhausted eligibility.
2. Of the remaining players on the roster, few (maybe just one or two) seem to have the physical attributes of a typical left tackle.
3. The players that do have the attributes of a tackle (Pat Allen, Kendall Baker), there is almost no starting experience.
4. Kirby Smart and co. ended National Signing Day with only three offensive line commits when they could’ve used four or five. This was the biggest signing day disappointment for the staff.
5. Ben Cleveland, the much-heralded offensive tackle of the 2016 class, may be more suitable for right tackle (as are Allen and Baker). While Big Ben is indeed very big, his talent is very raw and he most likely won’t be a day one starter at either left or right tackle.
Ultimately, it was these depth chart issues that attracted Catalina to UGA. Catalina needs a one-year stop gap between Rhode Island and what seems to be an NFL career. UGA needs a rent-a-tackle who can protect Eason’s blind side until one of the younger guys can be trusted with guarding the blue chip QB. The marriage of the two parties gives UGA what is essentially the 21st scholarship-involving commitment of the 2016 class.