UGA Football

When instincts tell a player to hurdle a defender

Charlie Woerner hurdles over a Missouri defender.
Charlie Woerner hurdles over a Missouri defender. Georgia Sports Communications

Charlie Woerner wasn’t looking to leap over a defender during Georgia’s blowout win over Missouri.

As he recalled, it just sort of happened in the flow of the game.

Woerner took a reception, turned upfield and came charging at a Missouri defensive back. As the defender bent down to wrap Woerner up, the sophomore tight end decided to go over the top to keep the play moving. The hurdle electrified the Sanford Stadium crowd and turned into a 50-yard completion.

As for Woerner, he wasn’t as impressed with the jump as others watching him were. A former high school hurdler, Woerner said he could have done a better job getting over the defender.

“Mine wasn’t too good on that play,” Woerner said. “I should have carried over a little more of my hurdling skills from high school. I’d say Nick (Chubb) had the best hurdle that day.”

Woerner was one of three Georgia players to hurdle a defender that game. Chubb was the first to do so, with D’Andre Swift being the third. Swift, however, had his play called back due to penalty, so his leap didn’t technically go down as a counted play.

It was impressive nonetheless.

When it comes to hurdling a defender, it’s all about instincts. Players don’t practice hurdling over guys in practice. Coaches certainly don’t teach the move as a technique. It all comes down to how a ball-carrier feels during the moment. If he feels he can’t go around or truck through the defender, then the hurdle becomes an option.

“It’s something you just kind of have to do,” running back Sony Michel said. “If you’re running the ball and you’re thinking about jumping, you’re not going to jump. You’re going to think about, ‘Well if I jump, I’m going to get flipped.’ That’s something I try not to do often. But if it’s something that’s going to happen, it’ll happen.”

When it does happen, it can fire teammates up.

Left guard Kendall Baker said the hurdles got everyone excited in the moment and when they re-watched the game in the film room.

“It makes you want to block harder for them and get them in the end zone, get them more yards,” Baker said. “It makes us all look good. It’s nice to see them do something like that, to where you go, ‘Wow, did he just do that?’”

As for who had the best hurdle against Missouri? Michel went with his close friend and roommate Chubb. At the same time, Michel said it was surprising to see both Chubb and Woerner leap over their defenders.

So was it not surprising to see Swift leap over his man?

“He’s a swift guy,” Michel said. “You can expect anything from him.”

Added Baker: “Swift is very elusive. He’s crazy with the ball in his hands.”