Welcome to Good Day, UGA, your one-stop shop for Georgia football news and takes. Check us out every weekday morning for everything you need to know about Georgia football, recruiting, basketball and more.
Georgia line named Joe Moore Award semifinalist
If you had said before the season that Roquan Smith would be up for a slew of best defender awards or defensive coordinator would be in the running to be named the nation’s top assistant come season end, I don’t think you would have gotten many sideways looks. But the offensive line, that’s a horse of a different color.
The offensive line was clearly Georgia’s greatest weakness in 2016 as it struggled to open lanes for Nick Chubb and Sony Michel and keep pass rushers from putting pressure on Jacob Eason. Last season, Georgia was ninth in the SEC in rushing (191 yards/game), allowed 24 sacks and had only 15 runs of 20+ yards all season. Considering that, if you had said Georgia’s offensive line would be up for postseason honors before this season began, you might have been asked to have your head examined.
Yet here we are. On Tuesday, the Bulldogs’ line was named a Joe Moore Award semifinalist, given to the best offensive line in college football.
The line — which has run a starting unit of LT Isaiah Wynn, LG Kendall Baker, C Lamont Gaillard, RG Solomon Kindley and RT Andrew Thomas for most of the season — has improved by leaps and bounds in Year 2 under Kirby Smart. This season, Georgia is second in the SEC in rushing (267 yards/game), has allowed 14 sacks and is fourth nationally in runs of 20+ yards with 36.
A lot of the credit for the transformation of the line has to go to line coach Sam Pittman, who was considered one of the nation’s best line coaches when Smart poached him from Arkansas after the 2015 season. The transformation Pittman has helped engineer in just his second season in Athens shows just how good of an assistant he is.
“Coach Pittman does a tremendous job,” Smart said last month. “No one I’ve ever worked with cares about his players more than Coach Pittman. We’ve had some tough in-season practices and they are gelling together. He does a good job with those guys.”
Joe Moore Award 2017 Semi-Finalists
These 7 #OLINE Units Have Best Exemplified the 6 Criteria#Toughness #Effort #Teamwork #Consistency #Technique #Finishing@AlabamaFTBL @AuburnFootball @FootballUGA @NDFootball @OU_Football @StanfordFball @BadgerFootball https://t.co/wLZBVl2jbt pic.twitter.com/YwsihwlOTZ
— The Joe Moore Award (@JoeMooreAward) November 21, 2017
Cut it out
One of the most challenging aspects of facing Georgia Tech’s triple-option attack is preparing for cut blocks, blocking below the waist of a player not engaged on the line. Tech throws a lot of cuts, and it’s one of the few teams in college football that does.
“You rarely get cut (by other teams). A lot of teams, that’s not a focus of their offensive scheme. But it is a focus for Tech, and that’s what they do. So you just have to prepare for it,” senior linebacker Lorenzo Carter said, according to Seth Emerson of DawgNation. “You have to know it’s coming, it’s going to happen. You’re going to get cut block, you just have to play off it and know how to do it.”
But it isn’t just the rarity of the cut block that is a challenge, it’s also the cut block itself. Getting cut is essentially getting hit at the knees, a spot football players aren’t used to taking hits and a spot that is prone to serious injury. It’s not just a matter of defending the cut, you also have to mentally prepare for yourself for a hit that has the potential to cause a major injury, then take that hit over and over. So it’s no surprise some coaches have come out against the cut block, such as Pat Narduzzi of Pittsburgh, who called cuts “dangerous” before his team’s game against Tech this season.
But Smart is not one of the coaches on the anti-cut train, or at least he wasn’t being vocal about it when asked about Tech’s propensity to cut. From Davis Paschall of the Times Free Press:
“They’re probably better at it than most people because they work really hard at it, and it’s what they specialize in,” Smart said. “Everybody’s got what they’re good at, and what they’re best at is running the football. They do it on the perimeter. They mix it up, and they wait and see what you do and have answers for what you do.
“So at the end of the day, it is your job to stop it, and that’s what we’ve got to do. That’s the challenge ahead.”
Kirk Herbstreit: Fully loaded
I don’t have a particular quote to pull out of this, but if you haven’t already, you should check out Emerson’s interview with ESPN college football commentator Kirk Herbstreit on all things Georgia football. It’ll give you a good idea of the national perception of Georgia, which we can forget about sometimes down here in our Bulldogs bubble.
Kirby Smart explains why tight ends aren’t getting catches
Last week, Smart explained why he hadn’t been calling up many screen passes after weeks of fans complaining about a lack of them. This week he got another opportunity to clap back about an issue fans have with this offense: the lack of catches by tight ends. From Emerson:
Kirby Smart has a simple explanation. Defenses are playing man-to-man against Georgia, because they’re worried about UGA’s run game, and it’s easier for tight ends to get open against a zone.
“Trust me, I know about coaching defense and I know how people are playing us. So it’s easy to see why tight ends aren’t catching as many passes for us: Because they’re not open,” Smart said. “We throw to the open guy.”
Smart sounded bemused at all the fuss about the subject.
“I’m so engulfed in what we’re doing that I don’t know what people are so enamored with about the tight ends catching the ball. If the tight ends get open, they’ll get thrown the ball,” Smart said. “When people play you to stop the run, they play man a lot. When they play man, they cover the tight ends. I dare you to show me where there’s a tight end that’s open in man-to-man. …
“We’ve got plays designed to go to the tight ends, but they’ve been covered. It’s not a matter of we don’t want to throw to our tight ends. We have no mutiny against them. We just have to keep working at it and try to get some spots where they’ll be open. If some teams will play zone we could throw the ball to the tight end.”
Here is your College Football Playoff update
Georgia is ranked No. 7 in the College Football Playoff rankings for the second consecutive week.
That was your College Football Playoff update.
Dawgs on Twitter
Just when you think you have the best shot of Davin’s game-winning strip-sack vs Notre Dame… pic.twitter.com/prRhQPnY9j
— Georgia Football (@FootballUGA) November 21, 2017
— Coach Kirby Smart (@KirbySmartUGA) November 21, 2017
— Georgia Football (@FootballUGA) November 21, 2017
This is Gustaff. He’s never seen a tennis ball put up such a fight before. 14/10 would assist in the conquering
(IG: itsthegustaff) pic.twitter.com/Qyo1QDcRQl
— WeRateDogs™ (@dog_rates) November 21, 2017
Miss a previous edition of Good Day, UGA? Get caught up here.