Georgia's improving O-line?

semerson@macon.comNovember 12, 2012 

ATHENS - Georgia's offensive line remains one of the team's biggest concerns, but there are some signs the situation is getting better - and is even better than last year.

Sophomore center David Andrews was named the SEC offensive lineman of the week on Monday, based on his performance at Auburn. Andrews, according to the SEC, graded out at 88 percent, had six so-called "dominator" blocks and three knockdowns.

(Those stats are usually kept by the team itself, so the SEC was almost certainly getting them from Georgia.)

The offensive line did a good job overall on Saturday, with Aaron Murray only getting sacked once, the offense racking up 497 yards, and tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall each surpassing 100 yards.

"I thought our line blocked extremely well," head coach Mark Richt said. "There was a few times here and there they didn't get the job done quite right. But for the most part we ran the ball well, we blocked very well in the run game. It started with Murray getting in the right plays, but the guys executed very well. Pass (protection) overall was very good. Murray had time to throw the ball most of the time. And there was a few times he got pressured or hit early on in the first half, which we didn't like. But they got it squared away in the second half."

The two most quantifiable ways to measure the performance of the line are sacks allowed and rushing yards. Here's how Georgia compares nationally and to its own performance last year:

Sacks: Georgia has yielded 19 this season, which ranks 35th nationally, and fourth in the SEC. Last year the Bulldogs allowed 35 sacks. This year the Bulldogs are on pace for 26 sacks over 14 games.

Rushing: Georgia is averaging 199.7 yards per game, which ranks 31st nationally, and third in the SEC. Last year the Bulldogs averaged 164.0 rushing yards per game.

One caveat on the rushing yards stat: Much of the increased yardage may be due to Gurley and Marshall's ability for breakaway runs. Last year there weren't a lot of long runs, in fact the longest one by a tailback was 29 yards, by Isaiah Crowell. This year Gurley and Marshall have a number of 50-plus runs, and Ken Malcome even has a 30-yard run.

It also bears noting that the sack numbers could careen up to the 2011 levels in a hurry. This line tends to give up sacks in bunches: Five against Ole Miss and three against Kentucky. (And it sure seemed like more than two against South Carolina.)

But if the offensive line can continue to improve, Georgia may have a good shot against Alabama, and whoever comes after that.

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