Ten@10: Georgia’s offensive line hasn’t lived up to billing so far
1. Like any SEC football program coming into the season, a lot of assumptions were made from the outset. One assumption made about the Georgia Bulldogs was that the offensive line, which returned four of five starters from the previous season, was going to be among the best in the SEC.
Seven games into the 2015 campaign, it’s probably safe to say that group has some work to do live up to that billing. Then again, there’s still time to improve their assessment. In Florida next week the Bulldogs will be facing a nationally-ranked Top 25 defense for the third time in the last four games.
Coach Mark Richt was asked this past Sunday to assess the offensive line’s play to date.
“I’d say our tackles (John Theus and Kolton Houston) have been our most consistent over the course of the first seven games,” the coach said. “(Left guard) Isaiah Wynn started out playing extremely well and I think he’s struggled a bit lately. (Right guard Greg) Pyke’s been up and down a little bit. (Center Brandon) Kublanow has been solid but with the (recent) ankle (sprain), you just can’t quite get the push you want to get when you’re blocking.
“So we’re beat up a little bit. We need to get everybody healthy and we need to get everybody in sync. This off week will be helpful in that regard.”
2. Theus had been having an all-conference caliber season up until the Bulldogs played Missouri this past Saturday. The 6-foot-6, 303-pound senior struggled against the Tigers’ young defensive ends. He gave up a sack to sophomore Charles Harris, who led the down linemen with nine tackles, and redshirt freshman defensive end Walter Brady had seven stops.
Not all were against Theus, of course. But he had an uncharacteristically bad day besides. He was whistled for a false start on third-and-1 at Missouri’s 43. On the next play quarterback Greyson Lambert was sacked for a two-yard loss and the Bulldogs were forced to punt.
Theus was also called for holding on Georgia’s first possession of the second half. That resulted in what was essentially an 18-yard penalty as it negated an eight-yard, first-down run and the Bulldogs had to punt again.
3. Probably the most notable thing about Saturday’s 9-6 win over Missouri is it represented the starting debut of sophomore Sony Michel at tailback. Facing one of the SEC’s stingiest defenses and battling groin and hip flexor injuries to boot, Michel managed to eke out 100 total yards, including 87 rushing on 26 carries.
It was a strange game for the 5-10, 208-pound sophomore because he disappeared to the locker room in the middle of Georgia’s first possession after having just three carries.
“I had to get warmed up,” said Michel, who now has 515 yards rushing on the season. “My hips, my groin were kind of tight. It was just a precaution. I knew I was coming back.”
Michel was disappointed not to “bust one” against the Tigers. His longest run from scrimmage was 10 yards. But he left the game with his confidence intact despite the unspectacular debut.
“(Missouri’s tough defense) is something we were prepared for,” he said. “All our backs are prepared to fill that starting role. We all work so hard that it’s really no different being a backup or a starter. We all get reps and we’re all prepared for that.”
Michel is expected to get a lot of rest during the bye week. The Bulldogs actually returned to the practice fields Monday evening to review the Missouri game. They’re off on Tuesday, then will return to Woodruff Practice Fields on Wednesday and Thursday for what’s expected to be physical, back-to-basics workouts. They’ll then be given the weekend off to rest.
“The bye week will be huge,” Michel said. “We’ll get everybody healed up and we’ll be ready to roll.”
4. As for Georgia’s other tailbacks, Richt was asked on his Sunday teleconference call for further explanation on the decision to utilize Brendan Douglas earlier and more often than Keith Marshall in the role of Michel’s primary backup.
“The tailback usage was ‘all part of the plan,'” said Richt, without further elaboration.
Translation: It’s the job of running backs coach Thomas Brown to assess the relative abilities and state of readiness for each of his charges. UGA released a depth chart before the Missouri game that listed Marshall as the backup to Michel and no other names were listed. But that clearly didn’t come directly from Brown.
Douglas finished with 24 yards rushing on nine carries and two carries for 15 yards. Marshall had five carries for 24 yards and one reception for a loss of one yard.
5. Another wrinkle that received some mention prior to the Missouri game was full-time fullback Quayvon Hicks getting reps at tailback in practice. Hicks did get into the game on Saturday, but he did not have a carry or a reception and none of his snaps came at tailback.
“Quayvon’s (work at tailback) was mostly to provide depth in case we needed (him),” Richt said.
Hicks, a 6-foot-2, 260-pound senior, does not have a rushing attempt this season. He has caught three passes for 34 yards, an average of 11.3 per reception.
Expect Hicks to get some more chances before his career is through. He enters the eighth game of his senior season with an average of 9.1 yards per touch on 19 runs and nine catches.
6. Missouri complained to the SEC office what it felt was some officiating mistakes made in Saturday’s game against Georgia and the league admitted to at least two, according to Tigers coach Gary Pinkel.
Pinkel claims that kick-catch interference should have been called on the second-half play in which Georgia’s Malcolm Mitchell knocked the ball loose on a punt return and that pass interference should NOT have been called on the Bulldogs’ drive late in the fourth quarter that led to the game-winning field goal.
“There’s no whining here,” Pinkel said. “You just kind of feel bad they didn’t it get right. If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas.”
7. I’m not certain that Richt’s explanation of the attempted onsides kick on Saturday got included anywhere in our game coverage. So, just in case, I wanted to be sure to include it here.
It wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. In fact, the Bulldogs had planned it during the week, all the way down to the point of when they would employ it.
They decided they were going to try it after the first score of the game. That didn’t come until midway through the second quarter.
“We really liked what we saw on film,” Richt said. “I’m watching (Saturday) and they did exactly what we hoped they would do. Then I realized the kick came up short. There’s no question it was there. We knew it was there. We wanted to be aggressive in that way.”
Though it didn’t initially hurt the Bulldogs — Missouri went three-and-out and punted – the miscue did flip field position for the rest of the half.
But Richt said he told the defense to be prepared for whatever came as a result.
“It’s a calculated risk.” Richt said. “I talked to the defense about it. I said after the first score we’re going to bunt it, so just get ready. If we get it we still have possession, if we don’t we’ll bow our neck and play defense. We had decided that a couple of days ago.”
8. Twenty-five University of Georgia student-athletes were inducted into UGA’s Student-Athlete Leadership Academy during a ceremony on Monday evening in the Richard B. Taylor Room at the Coliseum Training Facility.
This marks the sixth year of the Leadership Education and Development (L.E.A.D.) program. Inductees are chosen based on academic and athletic success, leadership, campus and community service involvement, and recommendations of head coaches and academic counselors. Past inductees include six-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Allison Schmitt and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Aaron Murray.
This year’s inductees are: Jeb Blazevich, football; Mary Beth Box, gymnastics; Caroline Brinson, tennis; Summer Burnett, soccer; Haley Clark, Basketball; Nick Chubb, football; Amanda Dachs, volleyball; Liza Finsness, equestrian; Leontia Kallanou, track & field; Rachel Kolb, equestrian; Samantha LaZear, softball; Sammi Lee, golf; Elle McCord, volleyball; Keegan McGovern, baseball; Sony Michel, football; Kelsey Nix, soccer; Keturah Orji, track & field; Juwan Parker, basketball; Nick Salyers, swimming & diving; Aidan Sweeney, swimming & diving; Maicel Uibo, track & field; Anysia Unick, gymnastics; Kendell Williams, track & field; Stephen Wrenn, baseball; Rachel Zilinskas, swimming & diving.
9. Georgia baseball will wrap up its fall workouts with a three-game “World Series” that begins today at Foley Field. The six-inning scrimmages will feature a Red Squad and a Black squad, and Tuesday’s action will begin approximately at 3:45 p.m.
The three scrimmages are free and open to the public. Fans interested in attending should enter Foley Field through the left field gate and proceed to the stands.
The game one pitching matchup will feature a pair of junior left-handers in Connor Jones and Andrew Gist. Game 2 of the series will be Saturday at 1 p.m., and the starting pitchers will be freshmen left-handers Kevin Smith and Adam Goodman. Game 3 will be Sunday at 1 p.m., and on the mound it will be sophomore right-hander Blake Cairnes and senior right-hander Heath Holder.
Georgia’s veteran position players on the Black squad include junior centerfielder Stephen Wrenn, junior right fielder/catcher Skyler Weber and senior shortstop Nick King. The Red squad features sophomore left fielder Keegan McGovern, senior first baseman Daniel Nichols and junior second baseman Mike Bell.
10. UGA alum Sara Hendley has come up with a unique way to celebrate her 30th birthday. She is doing it by running 30 miles on Friday.
Hendley has mapped out a 15-mile loop around Atlanta and is running it twice. All the while, she’s raising money for a foundation — Action for Healthy Kids — that supports prevention of/awareness of childhood obesity. It is cause about which Hendley is extremely passionate. For more about Hendley’s run and to consider contributing to her cause, go to her website 30onThirty.com.