ATHENS – Near the end of his press conference on Monday, Kirby Smart was asked about the progress of his young offensive linemen, especially those redshirting this year.
“I’d love to tell you that they’re all going to be stars and they’re all going to be awesome players and they’re going to save the day next year when all of these seniors that you all hate so much leave,” Smart said. “(These seniors) that I like, that I think the guys play as hard as they can and have a lot of experience.”
For the record, a media member told senior center Brandon Kublanow a couple days later, that’s not true.
“You don’t hate us?” Kublanow said, smiling.
No, and it’s worth pointing out that the seniors and the entire offensive line is experiencing a late-season improvement.
Considering the opposition, the Auburn game may have been Georgia’s best blocking performance of the season. Especially the second half, when the Bulldogs didn’t give up any sacks, and moved the ball consistently.
“Yeah I saw a lot of progress in those guys up front,” said tailback Nick Chubb, who has rushed for a combined 186 yards the past two games, after combining for 60 yards the previous two. “They came a long way, we all have I think. It’s starting to pay off and show.”
Of course, it might not even be the quality of the blocking that has improved. Two weeks ago, after the debacle against Florida – when Chubb only had nine carries and Sony Michel just three – the two tailbacks met with offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. They left feeling better about the commitment to the run, and since then not only has Georgia run it more, but they’ve run plays more conducive to this team’s success: Outside runs, and runs out of the shot-gun.
On Wednesday, Smart was asked what the difference in the running game has been the past two weeks, and he essentially said it was the play-calling.
“I think the biggest difference is probably the commitment to the run, and maybe the biggest difference is who we’ve played and the formations we gave them to run it out of,” Smart said. “I certainly think that last week’s defensive front was very impressive, but we didn’t exactly run downhill on them inside. So we’ve tried to be creative about the way we’ve run the ball, and finding different ways to get the ball to the playmakers.
“So the biggest difference is the commitment level and the styles of runs we’re running.”
That said, Chubb also had a couple good runs straight up the middle against Auburn. And even on the outside runs, the O-linemen were involved, pulling and knocking defenders out of the way.
“It’s probably a little of everything,” Chubb said. “Running outside kind of loosens things up. Then we got it in our minds we’re going to run the ball, we’re going to be a lot better at it. And that’s what’s been happening.”
Do you guys feel under-appreciated, Kublanow was asked?
“Oh I don’t worry about it. I just worry about whether we’re winning or losing. I worry about our team,” Kublanow said. “You kind of block the outside stuff out, and just keep doing what you’re doing.”