ATHENS — Solomon Kindley and Andrew Thomas have played next to each other on Georgia’s offensive line most of the last two seasons.
That’s where the similarities end.
Thomas, Georgia’s All-American left tackle, is quiet-spoken to the point of being introverted.
Kindley, who started every game last season next to Thomas, is chatty and loquacious. He can talk about changing a lightbulb and make it into an entertaining anecdote.
Kindley says those contrasting personalities are evident even during the heat of battle.
“On the field, I’ll be like, ‘Andrew, we’ve got D-C-P!'” Kindley says, mimicking the act of making a line call during a game. “He’s like, ‘Yeah.’ After that we’ll run a play and I’ll be like, ‘good play!’ He’ll be like, ‘Yeah.'”
That written recounting doesn’t do justice to Kindley’s hilarious reenactment, replete with deadpan tones and facial expressions. But neither does any description when it comes to this gargantuan human being, with the style and personality to match. The 6-foot-4, 330-pound rising junior from Jacksonville has an effervescent disposition that belies the nature of his job, which is to dominate and physically overwhelm his opponent snap after offensive snap.
Fresh off the field following another grueling spring practice, Kindley takes a look at the small gathering of reporters that has encircled him to hear his comments, and he grins widely. “Just another day in paradise and Georgia football,” he proclaimed happily.
Don’t let Kindley’s whistling-through-life persona fool you. This is a man who has a very serious and physically-challenging job to do for the Bulldogs and approaches it accordingly. He has managed to do it well enough to start 21 games and play in all 29 his last two seasons, and that’s while Georgia continues bring blue-chip linemen to Athens by the busload.
The beauty of it is Kindley does not share the same recruiting pedigree with most of his fellow guards. He came to UGA from Jacksonville as a consensus 3-star prospect who ESPN ranked as the 40th-ranked offensive guard in the nation and the 99th best prospect in the state Florida.
Yet, after an initial redshirt year to get his weight and conditioning under control, Kindley has been a go-to player for line coach Sam Pittman. He started seven games at right guard next to then-right-tackle Thomas during Georgia’s run to the national championship game in 2017. Then he followed Thomas over to the left side, starting all 14 games last year as the Bulldogs led the SEC rushing on the way to an 11-3 season.
It’s there, at left guard next to Thomas, that Kindley opened this spring practice with Georgia’s No. 1 offense. But he knows just because that’s where he’s starting the 2019 season, it’s where he’ll end it.
“I’m never complacent with anything I do,” Kindley said following the second practice of the 15-practice spring session this past Thursday. “So, yes, I started the last 15 games or whatever it was last year; I’m trying to start every game this year. That’s the competitiveness we’ve got as an offensive line. We’ve got pushers from the first team to the fourth team. So everybody comes out to practice every day with a chip on their shoulder. If you don’t, Coach Pittman is the type of coach who will replace you no matter who you are or what you did.”
Pittman certainly finds himself with a lot of options. In addition to fellow junior Ben Cleveland, with whom Kindley battled for playing time the entire 2017 seasons, the Bulldogs have continued to bring in highly-rated guards. Last year signaled the arrival of Cade Mays and Jamaree Salyer, both of them 5-star prospects. Clay Webb, a 5-star recruit out of Alabama, joined the competition this spring.
Trey Hill, a 4-star recruit out of Warner Robins, also came in with that group and ended up playing a bigger role than any of them. Hill filled in for an injured Lamont Gaillard at center when Gaillard went down early in the first half of a pivotal SEC East road matchup against Kentucky. Later, after both Cleveland and Mays were lost to injuries, Hill started the last four games of the season at right guard.
Hill has entered spring camp as the No. 1 center, leaving Mays, Salyer, Cleveland, Webb, Justin Shaffer and others to compete for reps at left and right guard.
“Coach Pittman gets everybody ready and he’s going to put somebody there,” Kindley said, referring to center specifically. “He might put me there; you never know. Whoever he puts there is going to be a great player because that’s just the way our room is built. When your name is called and it’s time for you to be in there, you’re going to perform.”
For reasons known only to him, Pittman seems to have a particular affinity for Kindley and Thomas playing next to each other on the left side. It’s hard to argue with that reasoning after Georgia established school records last season for rushing yards (3,876) and rushing touchdowns (42).
The early word is that the Bulldogs may be throwing the ball around a good bit more now James Coley calling the plays as offensive coordinator. Kindley’s not about to take a guess on that. But his goals and aspirations for 2019 suggest he expects that.
To start with, he’s trimmer, or at least as svelte as somebody who weighs 340 pounds can be. Kindley said he weighs the same as he did last season, but is stronger and better conditioned. His hope is that will translate to the job is trying to do on the field.
“Everybody’s got improvement to do no matter good you are,” Kindley said. “The biggest thing for me getting more dominant and stronger in my pass protection, getting my hands set, little stuff like that.”
In the meantime, Kindley is happy to be paired again — at least for the moment — with Thomas on Georgia’s left flank. He said though they have markedly different personalities, he and Thomas remain best of friends, attending movies together on occasion and just hanging out whenever time permits.
“He’s cool people,” Kindley said with a laugh.
What would be really cool, Kindley said, would be for the Bulldogs to play this season the way he they believe they’re capable of.
“However good your offensive line is is however good your team is going to be,” Kindley said, almost preaching it. “So if our offensive and defensive lines are very good, then the sky’s the limit for us. That’s just the motto in our room; that’s the chip on our shoulder. If we’re good, we’re going to the national championship. We’re going to beat everybody and anybody who lines up against us. That’s just how we see things. We’re the best on the field and nobody can hang with us.”
We’re left to assume that Kindley’s probably speaking on behalf of Thomas, and the rest of Georgia’s O-line as well.
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