Kirby Smart is typically careful about heaping too much praise on true freshmen. That includes right tackle Andrew Thomas, although Georgia’s head coach concedes the former Pace Academy standout is doing about as well as expected.
Although just a few months removed from high school, Thomas has established himself as a linchpin on Georgia’s ever-improving offensive line, which arguably is coming off its best game of the year last week at Vanderbilt when the Bulldogs rushed for a season-high 423 yards.
“He’s a freshman out there playing in what I think is the toughest conference in the country. He’s holding up. He’s holding his own,” Smart said. “
We haven’t put him in a lot of really tough positions. We try to avoid that. Whether we cover him up (with a tight end) or being able to run the ball helps with that. He’s mature beyond his years. He’s very understanding of how important practice is which allows him to play well.”
Tight end Isaac Nauta gets a closeup view of Thomas every day in practice and during games. You’ll often find the former Buford standout line up alongside the freshman, and he’s seen the growth first-hand.
“He’s a quiet guy. He just goes to work. He’s an unbelievable player right now and will only get even better as time goes by,” Nauta said. “I’m excited to have him on the team, I’m excited to see him grow. He’s a good one to work with when you’re double-teaming somebody. When you’re on a route you know he’s going to give you good protection.”
Exceptional maturity for a player so young has also helped set him apart.
“Absolutely. When I say quiet he’s all about his business. He just goes to work,” Nauta said. “That side about him is definitely a mature part about him.”
Smart credited the practice habits he learned at Pace under head coach Chris Slade and offensive line coach Conor Gilmartin-Donohue for giving Thomas the practice habits he’s used to put him in the position he’s in.
“I won’t say every freshman embraces it (practice). Some you have to push them through it and they hit that wall. He hasn’t hit that wall. I think the best, most mature guys do. The school he went to, Pace (Academy), prepared him for it,” Smart said. “Coach Slade over there does a tremendous job preparing guys because he’s done it at all levels. I think Andrew was well prepared. His high school O-line coach is a great coach. Here’s a kid who came in very well groomed for what we were about to do and he’s handled it really well.”
Color Nauta impressed.
“I work with him every day so I noticed all along but when I really noticed was when I was watching film against Vanderbilt and he drove a guy about 20 yards down the field the whole way,” Nauta said. “I was like wow, he’s pretty special.
“He’s a good player for sure.”