As the questions regarding Georgia’s offensive line continued to mount, so did the confidence of those within the unit.
The Bulldogs were given a daunting task in replacing three seniors after ranking 87th nationally in total offense in 2016.
Georgia had backfield stars Nick Chubb and Sony Michel returning, but it spent preseason practice reshaping its offensive line with one goal, according to center Lamont Gaillard —be dominant.
“We wanted to be the best from the start,” Gaillard said. “For us to take hands to it, we have to own up to it. It works out for the best of us and the improvement that y’all see.”
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In most of its games this season, Georgia has worn defenses down to open up the run game.
Georgia’s most recent contest — a 53-28 win over Missouri — serves a prime example. At the end of the first quarter, the Bulldogs had 45 rushing yards. By the end of the game, the run blockers paved the way for Georgia’s five-deep backfield to finish with 370 yards on 48 carries.
“They’re all saying that they need to play selflessly,” Georgia senior tight end Jeb Blazevich said. “So many guys have stepped up and played different positions. It’s a credit to (offensive line coach Sam Pittman), and the leaders — Isaiah Wynn, Lamont, Kendall (Baker) and those guys playing well together. They’re starting to challenge and hold each other accountable.”
The rotation on the Bulldogs’ offensive line has ceased, and Pittman has gone with his starters for the majority of regulation in recent weeks. Entering the eighth game of the season, Georgia’s depth chart lists Wynn at left tackle, Baker at left guard, Gaillard at center, Solomon Kindley at right guard and Andrew Thomas at right tackle.
Georgia ranks No. 22 nationally in scoring offense through seven games at 37.6 points per game. The players up front have been significant in that, but a lot of different factors play into the visible improvements.
“I don’t know if I could pinpoint one moment there was a total buy-in,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “I think the fact that we’ve been a little more open in our personnel groupings has helped. There’s a lot of things that are cumulative. Second year in the same offense. A lot of things affect that. I don’t think it’s one thing that we can pinpoint. But I do think the offensive line has matured and is playing a little better.”
Smart pointed out multiple areas of his offense when trying to elaborate upon his line’s success. Georgia believes its efforts are done by committee, and the playmakers have continued to contribute in blocking.
Georgia receivers Javon Wims and Terry Godwin have been urged to intensify the blocking facet of their game.
“Not most people want to come into the box and block somebody bigger than them,” Gaillard said. “For them to do that, it tells a lot about our program and them individually. I’m proud of them.”
Next up for Georgia is Florida, which has won three straight games in the series.
Last season, Georgia only had 136 yards of offense in a 24-10 defeat to the Gators. As both teams prepare for the next chapter of the rivalry, Florida head coach Jim McElwain was complimentary of the Georgia offensive line.
“Boy, (Georgia’s offensive line has) done a really good job,” he said. “Obviously, Sam has done an unbelievable job with those guys. They do a really good job offensively as far as teaching. If your backers fill wrong, they make it happen. They’ve done an unbelievable job up front.”
In his second campaign, the strides within Pittman’s unit have been integral to Georgia’s developments as a team. Yet, his core message remains the same as each week progresses.
“He wants us to be consistent, not complacent,” Gaillard said. “If we keep up with everything they’re talking about, their moves and their steps, we’ll keep moving the way we are. If we get complacent, everything will fall off.”