ATHENS – They don’t know who first started calling them “the misfits.” It may have been a former staffer. What the members of the Georgia offensive line know is they like it.
Three of them are red-heads, for one thing. One of them, senior left tackle John Theus, rattled off the other reasons:
Left tackle Kolton Houston is in his sixth year. Right guard Greg Pyke (another redhead) was a lacrosse player. Center Brandon Kublanow (redhead) is undersized and (Theus said facetiously) “shouldn’t play college football.” Left guard Isaiah Wynn? He’s smallish too.
“It’s just a weird group of guys that get together and get along and just love to play with each other,” Theus said.
It’s working well, to the point where Georgia can now make a reasonable case for having one of the best offensive lines in college football. Just look at the rushing yards (256 per game, 12th in the country) and sacks allowed (just two in three games.) Starting quarterback Greyson Lambert was only hit twice last Saturday by South Carolina.
But the idea that the “misfits” are really that good has a big group of detractors: The misfits.
“I believe that it’s our tailbacks,” Theus said.
“These backs do make us look pretty good as well,” Pyke said.
“I would definitely say it’s more him than us,” Houston said, meaning star tailback Nick Chubb. “No doubt on that.”
Normally the story you’d be reading right now would be this: “Georgia’s offensive line wonders why it doesn’t get more credit.” After all, it’s Chubb this, Sony Michel that, and after last weekend, Lambert this and that. Why doesn’t the blocking get more attention?
But no, the five Georgia linemen actually go out of their way to credit the tailbacks. They bring it up themselves.
“I mean yeah, you see what they do on Saturdays. They’re pretty special,” Pyke said. “We’re doing a good job up front and everything, but I give all the credit to those guys.”
Both Houston and Theus have been at Georgia when the offensive line was considered the weakness on the offense, perhaps even of the team. The years 2010-13 were ones of inconsistency and, very often, struggles.
But there was also growth, building towards this. There wasn’t one single player who came in and fixed it. The front five simply stabilized last year, and after losing just one starter this year (center David Andrews, now starting for the New England Patriots) has so far managed to keep its level high.
“Those backs can make them look good at times, but there’s a lot of times where are our linemen make our backs look good,” coach Mark Richt said. “You can’t run the ball like we are running it without the linemen doing their job.”
As for the passing game, Richt pointed out that not only did Lambert not get sacked, but he had time in the pocket and clear lines of sight for his receivers.
Experience helps. Wynn, a sophomore, is the only new starter on the line. The rest of the group collectively now has 82 career starts. And despite the misfit label there are probably a few future NFL players in the group, with Theus and Pyke both potential high draft picks next year.
“We want to be the best, there’s no doubt about it, and that’s what we’re working for,” Theus said. “But like Kolton said, I think it’s a group effort. With the quarterbacks only getting hit twice, that’s running back protection, that’s receivers getting open, making the right reads and stuff. So it really is a team effort.
“But do we want to be the best in the country? Absolutely, and that’s a goal. But like Kolton said it’s definitely a team effort and we’ve got guys in our country who make us look good.”
It remains up to others to praise the group. Senior linebacker Jordan Jenkins, who has gone against this group for four years, put it in pretty simple terms, on something that has little to do with those star tailbacks.
“I hate seeing my own quarterback getting sacked, that’s something that really makes me angry,” Jenkins said. “And I haven’t seen a lot of that.”