ATHENS — The five men who deserve at least some credit for Georgia’s running game, and who will now be entrusted with protecting Greyson Lambert, are talking differently these days.
It used to be about proving themselves as an offensive line. They did that last year, emerging as the best front five Georgia has had in years. Now humility is giving way to a bit of an edge – and some inconsistency, according to their head coach.
That can’t carry into the season if Georgia’s offense is going to do well. Amid all the questions, from quarterback to receiver to defense, the offensive line is right there with Nick Chubb: It’s what the Bulldogs are supposed to depend on.
“We like to call ourselves the misfits,” senior left tackle John Theus said. “I don’t know how many individual awards we’ll win, but I think we pride ourselves on how we play together as a unit.”
Actually, guard Greg Pyke was AP second-team All-SEC last year, his first as a starter, and Theus was honorable mention, and center David Andrews, now with the New England Patriots, was second-team as well. But it is true that none were first team, and the reputation of the line hasn’t caught up with its performance last year.
“That is a goal, to be the best group in the country,” Theus said. “We go out there every day wanting to be the best group.”
That seems a realistic goal, considering four starters are back, and the lone new one, sophomore left guard Isaiah Wynn, may have the most long-term potential.
But coach Mark Richt talked this week like the line needed a fire lit under them.
“They haven’t been perfect,” Richt said after Wednesday’s practice. “There’s been days where I’ve been like: You guys aren’t that good to practice like this. Quite frankly, it’s like they may have heard, ‘Well we’ve got a veteran line coming back, we’re one of the better lines in America, we’re this, we’re that.’ Everything that we’ve done – we meaning the offensive line or Georgia – is really all in the past.”
It’s a nice problem for Richt to have, considering the inconsistent, often disappointing line he had from 2010-14. This is the first time “for awhile,” he’s had so many starters coming back from a good line, Richt acknowledged.
“If they play as good as they can possibly play, they’re a pretty good bunch,” Richt said. “They haven’t always practiced that way every day. They’ve gotta continue to get better.”
Still, there’s a confidence about the group this season. When they’ve been asked about the quarterbacks, they’ve said it doesn’t matter, inferring they can block for any of them. And with Chubb and the other tailbacks around, the linemen have been very blunt, as summed up by Pyke on Wednesday.
“Just run the ball,” he said. “Pound it down their throats.”