It’s become apparent that Nick Chubb has not been Nick Chubb since the North Carolina game.
Is that a cause for widespread panic among UGA fans? No. Is that a cause for concern? Certainly.
After his 2016 debut of 222 yards on 32 carries against North Carolina, Chubb rushed for 80 yards on 20 carries against Nicholls and then 63 yards on 19 carries against Missouri. The decline in the numbers, especially the number of carries, can be attributed to the fact that Sony Michel returned for the Nicholls game. Since most UGA fans want to blame someone or something, we need to look elsewhere.
Let’s start with the offensive line. The Dawgs return three players in the interior who had substantial playing time in 2015: Isaiah Wynn, Brandon Kublanow and Greg Pike. Junior Dyshon Sims has played a few times during the past two seasons. Additionally, Tyler Catalina, a grad student who started for three years at Rhode Island, has become the team’s starting left tackle.
Then there is a new offensive line coach. Sam Pittman, known as one of the best in college football, is in his first year with Georgia. The Dawgs also have a new strength and conditioning coach, Scott Sinclair. If anyone can get the guys stronger, he’s the man.
So, is it the players on the offensive line or the coaches? Head coach Kirby Smart addressed this in his recent press conference.
“Usually you’re blocking the plays that you have installed offensively. So, philosophically, whether it’s the power…a lot of people block the power the same way. Some people teach different steps, different splits, different things like that,” said Smart. “For the most part, running plays are running plays. I think across the board. When you watch college football, a lot of people block the same plays the same way. So when you talk about scheme-wise, there’s not always a lot of change. I think, philosophically, there could be changes in how you play people, what protections you use. Some ‘o-line’ coaches are different from others. I’m certain there’s been some changes in that room, in that dynamic, but a lot of the plays have been the same.”
Smart bristles at the mention of moving guys on the o-line to different positions, and he should. It’s the well-worn tale of second guessing by the media. It always happens when things are not going as well as expected. “We’ve looked at every combination we can, and we’ll continue to do that. Those guys practice when y’all (the media) aren’t there, besides the 12 minutes you are there,” said Smart. “They do those things, and we look at them. We go against the defense. Then we go over and do one-on-one pass rush when you guys aren’t there. And we do (pass protection). And Isaiah (Wynn) plays tackle and different guys play guard. At the end of the week we say ‘what’s our best lineup?’ I hope that answers your question.”
Granted, most people think I am a UGA apologist. But I think that things are not that bad. It will take a while for the new coaches and the returning players to get in sync. It may not happen this weekend at Ole Miss (actually, it might get rather ugly), but soon we will see the running game open and the guys up front getting the “push” that has become such a buzz word this season.
You have to go all the way back to the 1938 season to find a UGA coach who was 3-and-0 to begin his career. Although it’s not perfect, it’s been a good start for the Dawgs.