War Eagle Extra

Nothing but respect: Auburn defense complimentary of Georgia’s talented backfield

Georgia running back Nick Chubb slips past the grip of Kentucky cornerback Derrick Baity during the first half Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, in Lexington, Ky.
Georgia running back Nick Chubb slips past the grip of Kentucky cornerback Derrick Baity during the first half Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, in Lexington, Ky. AP

The list of talented running backs Auburn’s defense has faced this season will get a little longer this weekend when it travels to Athens for the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.

“Definitely looking forward it,” Auburn linebacker Darrell Williams said. “This year has been a pleasure. Being in high school, and seeing all these running backs like Leonard Fournette, Nick Chubb, and guys like that. Just facing them and applying technique. I respect them. You've got to respect your opponent's game. This is going to be a joy.”

Auburn’s defense has enjoyed its recent matchups against top SEC backs holding the number two (Arkansas’ Rawleigh Williams III) and three (Vanderbilt’s Ralph Webb) leading rushers in the conference to less than 75 combined yards.

Georgia’s offense is in the middle of the pack in the conference averaging 178 yards per game on the ground, but not for lack of talent.

Nick Chubb has 691 yards this season with five touchdowns averaging 4.73 yards per carry.

Chubb hasn’t matched the level of success he had as an underclassman when he put together a streak of 13 games with at least 100 rushing yards. The streak ended when he tore multiple knee ligaments in a game against Tennessee last year.

The junior has shown flashes of his former self most notably with 35 carries for 222 yards and two touchdowns in the season-opener against North Carolina. A sprained ankle a month into the season didn’t help the running back’s production.

Chubb’s numbers aren’t among the elite backs in the conference, but Steele puts him in that rare category.

“He’s got the ability to make any kind of run,” Steele said. “He can make the inside run behind his pads. He can run through tackles. He’s able to run through arm tackling. He can make you miss. He can bounce the edge and go the distance. He’s the complete package.”

Auburn’s leery of Chubb for good reason. He torched a Tigers defense allowing less than 150 yards per game in 2014 along with starter Todd Gurley. Chubb ran for 144 of Georgia’s 289 rushing yards and scored two touchdowns in the 34-7 win.

The Bulldogs have a similar advantage as it did two years ago with Sony Michel as the team’s talented complimentary back. Michel rushed for a 1,136 yards last season in Chubb’s absence.

The junior suffered a broken forearm late in the offseason, but has steadily increased his workload over the course of the fall after missing the season-opener. Michel scored the go-ahead touchdown Saturday on a 26-yard run against Kentucky.

“They have two running backs that are very good at what they do,” Steele said. “I think I've heard the term thunder and lightning. They're both thunder and they're both lightning when I watch them.”

Michael Niziolek: 334-332-8572, @wareagleextra

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