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Smart: Georgia's run game is not what you think it is

Kirby Smart sees the run game differently than you might.

What some observe as a quick pass to the outside, Smart sees as a running play. The yardage is chalked up in the team's rushing total, and the Bulldogs move on.

The running game, both in traditional form and its modern adaptation, have been solid for the Bulldogs so far—not spectacular, but good enough to get the job done. The team is still fine-tuning its ground game as SEC play kicks off this weekend at South Carolina.

"When you’re getting four or five yards a rush, it’s hard to complain about that," Smart said. "We’ve got to do it at a higher level against a better opponent."

Georgia running back Kendall Milton (2) carries the ball during Georgia's 33-0 win over Samford in Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Sept. 10, 2022. Photo by Kathryn Skeean.
Georgia running back Kendall Milton (2) carries the ball during Georgia's 33-0 win over Samford in Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Sept. 10, 2022. Photo by Kathryn Skeean.

Through two games, Georgia is averaging 129.5 rushing yards per game and 4.5 yards per rushing attempt. Those are solid numbers, but not necessarily up to the standard of bruising Bulldog ground attacks from years past.

UGA center Sedrick Van Pran has seen some teammates have strong individual plays. The next step for the offensive line is to be hitting on all cylinders together more often.

"I think where we can be better is everybody having extreme detail every play," Van Pran said. "I think there were a lot of times when, really in the offense in general, one person may have an off-play. I think once we get to the point where all 11 are on and nobody’s making mistakes, I think we’ll be even better."

Right tackle Warren McClendon echoed Van Pran's sentiments. He felt the Bulldogs played well in week one against Oregon, but didn't play to their own standard against Samford.

Part of the struggle came from penalties McClendon wants to see get cleaned up. But there are also some more tangible areas the Bulldogs are working on.

"Just getting better with our double teams, just meshing well together, not staying on blocks too long, knowing when to come off, knowing when to stay on a bit longer, stuff like that," McClendon said. "As offensive linemen, we’re always focused on running the ball. We want to run the ball. We want to be physical, come off the ball."

But as Smart noted, some of the team's "runs" aren't actually runs at all.

Georgia has utilized quick throws to the outside often through its first two games. Those plays, at times, replace a more traditional running play.

"I would say probably 30 to 40 percent of the plays you’re calling a pass, the yardage is a run play," Smart said. "They can be very successful run plays. The question is, are they more successful as a run play? Are they more successful when we decide to throw the ball out of that run play? The evaluation for us is those plays are running plays. A lot of times, we put them in rushing yardage because they’re actually replacing rushing yardage."

The run game will face its first SEC test this weekend against South Carolina. The Gamecocks are an athletic bunch up front, but they're allowing 248 rushing yards per game to their opponents. That includes 295 allowed to Arkansas in their SEC opener last week.

With the SEC gauntlet kicking off, Smart has faith in the ground attack he knows will be needed over the next couple months.

"I think you’ve got to have a run game to win tight ballgames, and be a good, physical team," Smart said. "There’s not a lack of confidence in our run game for me."