After Georgia’s 20-17 double overtime loss to South Carolina on Oct. 12, Kirby Smart seemed to issue a challenge to his highly-touted offensive line.
“Everybody likes to talk about our offensive line being a dominating offensive line,” Smart said. “I’d love to talk about that. But they’ve got to do it. We’ve got to go out there and occupy the line of scrimmage and win the line of scrimmage, over and over.”
Smart was a little less harsh in the days that followed, noting that the line helped produce an efficient rushing performance against the Gamecocks. But even still, it’s clear the man in charge wants to see more going forward from a unit proclaimed to be one of the nation’s best in the offseason.
“It’s always important up front that you can establish movement and displacement, is what I like to call it,” Smart said. “You can get displacement and that’s big. We had some good displacement last week. We just didn’t do it consistently.”
The rushing efficiency metric is based around situational goals, such as picking up short yardage or scoring touchdowns down by the goal line. A two-yard scoring run doesn’t do much for rushing average, but it’s very efficient.
Smart said the Bulldogs were at 56% efficiency against South Carolina. Last Saturday’s game was the first Georgia has lost under Smart with an efficiency over 50% according to the head coach, further highlighting the role the four Bulldog turnovers played in the game.
However, there are still plenty of spots for the offensive line to improve in order to boost both efficiency and average.
“Can they move Kentucky, can they create movement to create some explosive runs?” Smart said. “Can we block on the perimeter well enough that a 12-yard run is a 50-yard run because we’ve got pretty good backs to do that with. We’ve opened up a lot of 10- to 12-yard runs. We haven’t had the explosives that we need greater than 12.”
There have been several points this season where the acclaimed offensive line has struggled to create running room, particularly in the last three games. If the Bulldogs want to improve and be consistently dominant in the second half of the year, it starts this week.
Offensive lineman Cade Mays said the loss served as a wake-up call to “let us know that we’ve got to come out and perform better.”
“I just think that we came out on Saturday and didn’t play our best game,” Mays said. “We were outplayed and outcompeted. It’s something that we can’t get back. I wish we could get it back, but we can’t.”
While not an offensive lineman, tight end Charlie Woerner shares in the blocking responsibilities for the Bulldogs. He’s noticed that the group has come out with a chip on its shoulder in practice.
As for the words from the head coach, Woerner said the group hasn’t been hurt by the criticism.
“I think we’re a very mature group, and really just a bunch of good guys,” Woerner said. “We’re not going to take it the wrong way. We’re going to take a challenge like that in a positive way and really attack this week with the right mindset.”
Even after the loss, the Bulldogs still have all of the season’s goals within reach. But for those goals to be achieved, the offensive line will need to consistently live up to the lofty praise heaped on them for the past several months.
“We’re looked at as one of the best, if not the best groups in the entire country,” Mays said. “We’ve got to go out and prove that every Saturday. If we don’t, then everybody saying that doesn’t matter.”