There are two players who touch the ball on every play on the Georgia offense. The most talked-about is the quarterback position, one that has and will continue to be much discussed following the team’s 37-10 win over Arkansas.
The other is the center position. Like the quarterback spot, Georgia rotated players at the position. Trey Hill got the start but Warren Ericson did come in and take some reps at the spot during the game.
There was one notable quarterback-snap misfire where D’Wan Mathis couldn’t bring in the snap. The play resulted in a 17-yard loss and knocked the Bulldogs out of field goal range. It also proved to be Mathis’ final snap of the first half, as Stetson Bennett replaced him on the ensuing drive.
With Bennett in the game, the Georgia offense finally got things going, ultimately building a 34-10 lead before Mathis was re-inserted back into the game.
What perhaps makes the snap issues so interesting is that the Bulldogs have one of the best centers in the conference Hill. He was named Second Team All-SEC this preseason by both the coaches and the media. He’s also Georgia’s most experienced offensive lineman, as he started every game in the 2019 season to go along with the four he started at right guard in 2018.
But even going to Hill’s first significant playing experience against Kentucky in 2018, Hill has had issues with snapping the ball. He came in for an injured Lamont Gaillard and did have issues in that game, including one errant snap that resulted in a fumble when Georgia was in the red zone.
Hill isn’t a natural center, as prior to the 2019 season, as he started just one game at the position during his high school career. Ericson on the other hand is, having done so for North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Ga.
When Ericson enters the game though, Hill is still on the field, as he slid over to the guard spot. The four starts during his freshman season at Georgia did come at guard.
“Trey plays a really good guard,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “In a lot of ways, Trey can play guard and create more power than Warren can, in terms of strength and body weight. So, he’s able to relieve Ben [Cleveland] and [Justin] Shaffer, and give them a blow and not have a drop off at center.”
Rotating along the interior of the offensive line isn’t uncommon under Smart, as Cleveland and Cade Mays frequently swapped around during the 2019 season for Georgia. But that was not something that happened at the center position.
Ericson, in addition to playing center, offers similar positional versatility as he started the Sugar Bowl win over Baylor at right guard as well. The Bulldogs also rotated at the right tackle spot, with Warren McClendon coming in for Owen Condon on Saturday as well.
The quarterback-center exchange created problems for Georgia even when it wasn’t obvious to the naked eye that there was an issue. A snap that’s either too far right or too low can ruin an entire play, even when the quarterback does get his hands on it.
“If you have a bad snap and it gets you off direction, you can’t have that,” Smart said. “It takes a cumulative effect of everybody doing their job, and if one guy is off — one receiver doesn’t cut off a safety and he turns what would be a 20-yard gain in to a five-yard gain. If the snap is off, you go back and look, there were a couple times the snap was just off key and it brings the quarterback off line and then it brings the running back offline.”
In the first half of the Arkansas game, Georgia’s running backs had just 27 rushing yards on 12 carries. The Arkansas defense last season gave up 221 rushing yards per game, making them the worst rushing defense in the SEC.
All eyes will be on Georgia’s quarterbacks this week and how they play against the No. 7 ranked Auburn Tigers. It will also be worth monitoring how the centers do in terms of getting whoever plays quarterback the ball. Because if what happens against Arkansas continues, it might not matter where JT Daniels, Stetson Bennett, D’Wan Mathis or Carson Beck put the ball.
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart previews Arkansas game
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