What makes Georgia’s running game click -- the offensive line or the tailbacks?
Each position group points to the other. The offensive line believes the running backs are the key to its success. The running backs believe they wouldn't churn out as much yardage without this offensive line.
Regardless of which position group deserves the credit, the running game has once again been spectacular through three games. Georgia ranks 12th in the nation at 256.7 rushing yards per game, with running back Nick Chubb third individually with 468 yards on the ground.
“We have the best tailbacks in the nation so they definitely help us,” center Brandon Kublanow said. “I think we’ve done a great job as an o-line. But the backs definitely make us look better.”
With quarterback Greyson Lambert offering his offensive linemen all the ice cream they want at Ben & Jerry’s for no-sack games, Chubb said he’s thinking of doing something for the big guys up front if he keeps going for 150-200 yards each time out.
And that's because Chubb has been able to average 156 rushing yards while facing stacked defensive fronts.
“Pretty much all we see is an eight-man box,” Chubb said. “You just get used to it. It’s the norm for us.”
It wasn’t too long ago when Georgia’s offensive line was maligned for being a perceived weakness. But since 2012, the year Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall arrived, Georgia has emerged as one of the top rushing offenses in the country.
With Chubb and Sony Michel following Gurley and Marshall, senior right tackle Kolton Houston believes it’s easy to connect the dots as to why Georgia’s running game has exploded.
“I fully believe it’s our tailbacks,” Houston said. “Yeah, we do a good job getting a hat on a hat. We don’t make a lot of (missed assignments). We play pretty smart. But I still credit our tailbacks. I do think we do a good job and we do what we’re supposed to do. But I think it’s the tailbacks who have upscaled us to the next level.”
Then again, without an offensive line, there wouldn’t be much room for the running backs to run the ball. In 2012, Gurley ran for 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns as a freshman. In 2014, Chubb ran for 1,547 yards and 14 touchdowns in his first season.
But in 2011, Isaiah Crowell, in his first and only season at Georgia, ran for 850 yards and five touchdowns in 12 games played. Holes didn’t open up as often and Crowell, despite displaying a ton of potential, didn’t come close to the success of those that followed. And while Crowell was dismissed from Georgia following his freshman season, he’s since proved his worth as a professional running back for the NFL’s Cleveland Browns.
Therefore, as Michel argues, it’s the offensive line that’s helping the backs pave the way for chunks of yards.
“They play hard, they’ve been preparing hard,” Michel said. “They don’t get as much credit but they deserve it. Without them, none of this would be possible.”
It’s a classic chicken-and-egg kind of question: Which group is responsible for the running game’s success?
Could any running back plug in and find success behind Georgia’s offensive line? Or have Georgia’s recent running backs been so good that they mask some of the offensive line’s deficiencies?
“Since it’s going back and forth, that’s the whole object of a team,” Michel said. “Them doing their job so well and us doing our job so well, that’s what makes it looks so good.”
Hitting the links
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Miscommunication on lone incompletion
Lambert was one throw away from being perfect in last Saturday’s 52-20 win over South Carolina.
He had a wide-open Malcolm Mitchell underneath on a first-quarter pass. But Lambert said he got “greedy” trying to throw it to tight end Jeb Blazevich, draped by two defenders, in the end zone. To Lambert’s credit, with that being where he wanted to go with the football, he threw it high to where if Blazevich couldn’t get it, the defense couldn’t get it either.
Blazevich was asked if he was surprised the throw came to him considering two defenders were drawn to him. Blazevich said he wasn’t since he was the first option on the play. However, at least one other receiver ran the wrong route, which drew the extra attention to Blazevich.
“When I lined up I knew I should be getting the ball if they kept their look,” Blazevich said. “But I think we had a miscommunication and some of the other receivers ran the wrong routes. It was just a little miscommunication. (Lambert) basically threw it out of bounds. He did the smart thing. When in doubt, throw it out.”
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Song of the day
"Who Do You Love?" by Bo Diddley