Throughout this decade, Georgia’s ground game has been considered one of the country’s most consistent and best.
The 2016 season, however, proved to be an exception.
Georgia’s rushing attack, after a magnificent opener against North Carolina, struggled through the next seven games to sustain consistency. As a result, running back Nick Chubb finished the year with a career-low average of 5 yards per carry.
While Georgia lost three starters – Tyler Catalina, Brandon Kublanow and Greg Pyke – from last season’s line, the Bulldogs should have a much bigger offensive line this year. Redshirt freshman Solomon Kindley, at 341 pounds, is the front-runner to step in at right guard and freshman Isaiah Wilson (350 pounds) will compete with senior Dyshon Sims (290 pounds) for the starting right tackle job.
“I’m very confident because we have a lot of players willing to step up,” running back Sony Michel said. “We’re building the offensive line, they’re working hard this offseason.”
Both Chubb and Michel have been impressed with Wilson and fellow freshman offensive lineman Andrew Thomas during offseason workouts. Thomas, who played high school football at Pace Academy, could also be a factor for the starting right tackle job. Head coach Kirby Smart believes both of those players will start out at offensive tackle when preseason begins.
Most importantly, however, Michel said he has enjoyed both Wilson and Thomas’ attitude.
“They came in and are buying in,” Michel said. “They don’t have the mindset of, ‘Oh, I’m a five-star coming to play.’ It’s, ‘I want to learn, I want to compete so I can play.’”
As a unit, Chubb said he has seen a different disposition from the entire offensive line after a down 2016 season.
Chubb will certainly hope an improved offensive line will lead to additional yards for the rushing attack.
“I see the same guys have a different attitude this season,” Chubb said. “They have their mind made up too that we weren’t where we needed to be last year. They’re working and doing everything they can do make improvements.”
Through Georgia’s first eight games a year ago, the Bulldogs averaged 173.8 rushing yards per outing.
Over the final five games, that number grew to 219.2. But nothing is settled just yet on the offensive line. As of now, Kindley, left tackle Isaiah Wynn and center Lamont Gaillard are the closest things to sure bets at their positions. Left guard and right tackle still need to be sorted out before Georgia can trot out a first-team offensive line for the opener against Appalachian State.
Head coach Kirby Smart sure hopes the line will be much more improved to avoid the problems the run game endured a season ago.
“We still have three guys that started on the offensive line that are gone,” Smart said. “Are we going to be better on the offensive line? I think we’ve got good players at those positions. We’ve got really good competition. We certainly have bigger people. But those questions will be answered in fall camp and the first few games.”