ATHENS — Expect more than one carry for Nick Chubb on Saturday.
Head coach Kirby Smart said Monday that Georgia’s star tailback is “cleared to play” in practice all week and, barring any setbacks, will be full go against South Carolina on Saturday in Columbia.
“We feel good about him going into this week,” Smart said. “We’re not holding him back in any kind of way. … He’s cleared to go. So we’ll see where he’s at and make sure he builds his reps as the week goes and is ready to go for the game.”
That’s a decidedly different scenario than this past week, when Chubb didn’t practice all week because of a left-ankle sprain and went into the Tennessee game with his availability in doubt. And Georgia’s management of his situation during the game was odd.
Chubb warmed up with the rest of the backs beforehand, but went in for just one play. He had a 3-yard gain on first down of Georgia’s second offensive series, then did not return.
“He was cleared to go for that game,” Smart said. “It was a more of a deal with, was he better at the time than those other backs, was he healthy, was he able to run at full speed? He didn’t practice the whole week, so it made it harder for him to go in and get reps.”
In other words, Chubb wasn’t ready to play. Now he is.
It did not appear that Georgia missed Chubb too much Saturday. The Bulldogs managed 181 yards on 46 carries — a 3.9-yard average — but got 5.0 yards per attempt from their three primary ball-carriers in the contest, Sony Michel (5.7), Brian Herrien (4.9) and Isaiah McKenzie (4.4).
South Carolina has been somewhat susceptible to running football teams. The Gamecocks enter Saturday’s contest ranked 13th in the SEC in rushing defense at 202 yards per game and are allowing 4.8 yards per carry.
“It’s always nice to have Nick Chubb back in your lineup,” senior tackle Greg Pyke said. “But I thought we did a good job with all the backs that ran in the game last week against Tennessee. It’s just icing on the cake to have him back in the lineup.
Despite sitting all but one play of the last game, Chubb remains the Bulldogs’ leading rusher. He has 425 yards and three touchdowns on the season and is averaging 5.1 yards per carry. He entered the season adding 7.4 yards a carry for his career.
Because he played that one play, Chubb’s per game average sinks to 85 yards per game, which ranks sixth among SEC backs.