UGA Football

Smart wants more movement up front: ‘Physicality is an attitude’

Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm is tackled by Auburn linebacker K.J. Britt.
Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm is tackled by Auburn linebacker K.J. Britt. AP

Georgia normally dresses out in full pads for practices on Wednesday. On this particular day, just three days before the SEC Championship, the Bulldogs wore shoulder pads and helmets only.

But that didn’t mean practice wasn’t every bit as physical as usual.

Georgia left tackle Isaiah Wynn said players were still running at full speed, thudding each other with the same intensity as before. With everything on the line in Saturday’s conference title game against Auburn, there wouldn’t be any other way for the players to approach this week.

“Even if the coaches wanted us to tone it down, the players were still treating it as another day where the only way to get better is to go full speed,” Wynn said.

Physicality has been the code word for Georgia this week. Following the first meeting with Auburn three weeks ago, a 40-17 loss, head coach Kirby Smart lamented the fact the Tigers were more physical than the Bulldogs on both lines of scrimmage.

The Auburn rushing attack racked up 237 yards on the ground. The Tigers’ offensive line was the only unit to generate consistent movement against Georgia’s front seven in 12 games.

Conversely, Georgia struggled to run the ball, managing only 46 total rushing yards. Georgia lost 33 yards on sacks, with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel combining for only 48 yards.

“Physicality is an attitude,” Smart said. “Physicality is a size. It’s a physics matter, too. It’s an attitude with which you approach the game and how you approach contact. We didn’t do as good a job as they did at that.”

It’s easy to demand that a team be more physical. At the same time, Auburn has a lot of talented players who are competing well within the team’s offensive and defensive schemes. Auburn’s offense has been well-balanced over the past five weeks, which has contributed to its rise to No. 2 in the College Football Playoff poll. In that five-game span, Auburn’s defense has held teams to only 18.4 points per game.

Georgia tight end Jeb Blazevich said a lot more can be made out of football than what it truly boils down to, however. He mentioned that while a lot goes into preparing its own complicated plays or defending against a complex scheme, much of the game itself comes down to who more often moves the opposition off the snap.

“At the end of the day it’s just people pushing on one another and trying to get the ball on a different side of the field than the other,” Blazevich said. “It’s just kind of what it is. I think it can boil down to be that simple. The most physical team, oftentimes, in any game wins.”

That has been the message and focus for Georgia this week. The Bulldogs were unable to generate the kind of push on either side of the line of scrimmage in the first meeting with Auburn. If that doesn’t happen again, the end result is likely to be the same.

Therefore, it is imperative for the Bulldogs to play the brand of football they displayed in the other 11 games it played this season.

“Anytime you play an SEC game the line of scrimmage is trench warfare,” Smart said. “Trench warfare is what we call it. It’s big, physical guys going after it. I think the line of scrimmage is really critical in this game for both sides.”