ST. LOUIS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart loves to talk about his big, physical offensive line and how it wears out defenders.
Opponents, like Missouri coach Barry Odom, dread the challenge the Bulldogs’ offensive front presents.
“I think they’ve got as talented of a run-oriented system when they decide to go run the ball as we’ve seen,” Odom said. “If you are out of your gap or out of your assignment a little bit, it will get exposed quickly.”
The No. 2-ranked Georgia football program will taken on Odom’s Tigers in a noon (Eastern) kick on Saturday in Columbia in a battle of unbeaten SEC teams.
As much attention as quarterbacks Jake Fromm and Drew Lock draw, the line of scrimmage could ultimately decide the outcome as both teams look to stay in favorable down-and-distance situations.
The key to that is often first down production, and Odom knows the Bulldogs love to dictate the flow with their power run game.
“Once we encounter one of their big dudes up front, we have to do a great job using our hands playing through and off the blocks,” Odom said this week, “because there’s times — the way they play and get to the next level of defenders, which would be our linebackers and sometimes drop down safety — that they can overwhelm you a bit with the way they play in the run game.”
Georgia is averaging 272 yards per game on the ground, 13th-best in the nation, and fourth in the SEC.
The Bulldogs offensive line leads the way, from left to right:
• LT Cade Mays (6-foot-6, 318 pounds)
• LG Solomon Kindley (6-4, 335)
• OC Lamont Gaillard (6-2, 308)
• RG Ben Cleveland (6-6, 335)
• RT Isaiah Wilson (6-7, 340)
“Our offensive line is physical, they’re big, they lean on you,” Smart said. “It just wears on you.”
The Bulldogs are splitting the carries at the tailback position four ways between leading rusher Elijah Holyfield (200 yards, 9.1 yards per carry), D’Andre Swift (119 yards, 5.0 yards per carry), James Cook (105 yards, 4.8 yards per carry) and Brian Herrien (91 yards, 7.0 yards per carry).
Holyfield broke a 66-yard run against Middle Tennessee, and his hard-charging, physical style of play has impressed Smart and Odom.
“He practices tough, physical; every day for him is physical,” Smart said. “He’s not a guy you have to motivate. He loves the game. He practices hard …. He likes contact, and he’s a bowling ball. He’s hard to bring down. He’s really tough.”
Odom has seen plenty of film of No. 13, too.
“He’s a strong runner, he’s got really good quickness on making his first initial jump cut, and then getting back vertical,” Odom said. “.Strong, strong power runner, really good in block protection when they throw the ball when he’s in there, he’s an impressive guy.”
Odom said the Tigers, who rank 74th in the nation in total defense (379.7 yards per game) have a challenge on their hands.
“We need to tackle well, we need to make sure that we play assignment sound,” Odom said. “When they do throw the ball we have to be good in our coverage zones, either n zone or man to man, we have to have really great eye discipline.”