ATHENS – Nick Chubb met Saquon Barkley at a recruiting event last year. The two became friends, and Chubb has kept up with the Penn State tailback, watching as Barkley has earned national acclaim.
The kind of acclaim that Chubb is not getting this year. Not through his own fault, but because he’s splitting carries and glory with Sony Michel, D’Andre Swift and others during Georgia’s stupendous season.
Not that Chubb is worried about a lack of Heisman publicity.
“I don’t want it. They can keep it,” Chubb said, with a laugh.
Chubb is still having a very good season: He ranks third in the SEC with 765 rushing yards, has nine rushing touchdowns and is averaging 6.4 yards per carry. He looks like his pre-injury self and is a big reason Georgia is unbeaten and in the hunt for an SEC and national championship.
This is what Chubb envisioned when he shocked people – and even himself – by deciding to return for his senior year, along with Michel and several other key players.
“This is the moment we all came back for,” Chubb said Wednesday.
The tone of this interview session, the Wednesday after Georgia’s 42-7 win over Florida, was a remarkable reversal from the same point last year. Back then the Bulldogs had lost 24-10, with Chubb only getting nine carries, and he and Michel had gone to offensive coordinator Jim Chaney to discuss concerns over their usage.
Everything has changed this year. Chubb and Michel are chugging along – on pace to become the first pair of Georgia tailbacks to get 1,000 yards in the same season. Chubb needs 235 during the final three-plus games, while Michel needs 371.
Georgia ranks second in the SEC in rushing offense, averaging 284 yards per game. The offensive line, a weak link last year, has changed course.
“There are holes everywhere,” Chubb said, and then was asked what he attributed that to: “Just the O-line doing a great job. And also the strength staff and the coaches and just everyone leading each other. There’s holes everywhere now.”
Chaney is also dialing up the right plays. It appears the unpredictability of the play-calling has helped, with Georgia running out of passing formations, being creative in blocking designs, and keeping the defense off-balance.
“Yeah I think so. That’s just coaches doing a great job of putting us in position to make the plays,” Chubb said. “Coach Chaney and his staff they’ve all done a great job this year.”
Chubb was asked if any of that could be traced to his and Michel’s post-Florida meeting last year with Chaney, who credited the two for speaking to him.
“I don’t know. He’s doing I guess what he’s always wanted to do, and we’re executing the plays better now, so he’s able to call what he wants,” Chubb said. “Because he knows we’re going to play hard for him.”
The injury questions are also gone now. Chubb isn’t talking about any lingering effects of the leg injury. Instead he’s talking about how fresh he is for the stretch run.
Chubb has carried it 120 times this season, well under pace of his career-high 224 carries last season, when he averaged a career-low 5.0 yards per carry. A deep backfield and lopsided wins have helped that.
“I feel great. I feel better now than I did at the beginning of the season,” Chubb said. “Just how I’ve been sharing the load, and not playing full games, that also helps. We’re doing a great job of taking care of everybody, I think.”