ATHENS — Kolton Houston wanted to be clear about the dynamic the Bulldogs are dealing with in practice this week. It may be a bye week, but that doesn’t mean they’re getting by without practicing.
“We had a good hard day of practice,” he said after Wednesday’s two-hour-long, full-pads workout. “It’s not like we’re just going through the motions.”
No, there is still much to work on, especially from an offensive standpoint. The Bulldogs ballyhooed run-game has taken a hit in recent weeks, between losing Nick Chubb to a season-ending injury to averaging just 2.7 yards per carry against Missouri this past week. Georgia managed just 298 total yards in the 9-6 victory and won without scoring a touchdown for the first time in 20 years (Kentucky, 1995).
The Bulldogs are addressing those shortcomings in practice this week, Houston said. But he also added that some perspective may be needed before summarily dismissing Georgia as an inept offensive football team. Missouri, he said, deserves some credit.
“Go back and look at all our past games with them,” said Houston, a sixth-year senior who starts at right tackle. “Their scheme is just brutal to go up against. They’re always slanting and causing mismatches. For the most part I think we did a pretty good job. At the same time, we struggled with finishing the play out. I think that was the cause for the lack of long runs. So we’ll try to get that going for Florida.”
Georgia’s longest run from scrimmage against the Tigers was 12 yards by Keith Marshall. Starter Sony Michel had a 10-yard run and finished with 87 rushing yards total.
But that’s pretty much how life is in the SEC in general. The league has become NFL Junior from a defensive standpoint, and the Bulldogs will see that up close and personal again next week against the Gators.
In fact, Florida is one of six SEC teams to be ranked among the Top 25 nationally against the run. The Gators are 25th while giving up 116.6 yards a game. Alabama (3rd), LSU (8th), Arkansas (15th), Missouri (21st) and Vanderbilt (23rd).
Georgia’s 120 yards rushing against the Tigers last week was among the most they’ve given up this season.
“That’s what the SEC is known for, pretty solid front-seven boxes,” Houston said. “We know we’re going to get that every week. Vanderbilt doesn’t get enough for how good they are on defense either. So everybody in the SEC is pretty dang good in the front seven. So we know we’ve got to come to work every week.”
Georgia’s cause could be helped if Michel can get healthier. The 5-11, 208-pound sophomore played last week with groin and hip flexor issues that forced him to the locker room in the first quarter.
Michel did not practice Wednesday and is being handled cautiously before the Bulldogs head down to Jacksonville.
“Sony’s doing great,” Houston said. “He brings a lot of energy. He makes a lot of explosive plays. He’s real crucial to our offense and we’re lucky to have him. Sony’s a good back. He’s talented, too.”
Meanwhile Houston said the Bulldogs got some good work in on Wednesday. And while he described the practice as extremely physical and focused on fundamentals, he said it was also less stressful knowing they didn’t have an opponent to prepare for on Saturday.
“It’s nice to kind of mentally decompress,” he said. “You’re not putting in the hours game-planning and it’s a little easier on your mind.”
Houston will spend this weekend on St. Simons Island attending the wedding of one of his girlfriend’s friends.
“Don’t know their names, but I’ll be there,” he said with a laugh. “I know they’re Georgia fans because the groomsmen said it’s got to be on a bye week. There will be some Georgia fans there.”