SEC MEDIA DAYS 2017: With return of running backs, Georgia already winning
By Graham Dunn
HOOVER – Year 2 of the Kirby Smart tenure at Georgia is about to begin.
And before the first snap of the 2017 season, he already has a couple of victories to his credit.
They came in the form of the return of his Cadillac running backs, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
As expected, Smart celebrated.
“I think Nick was the first guy to inform me, and I think maybe his decision weighed a little bit on the other guys that were deciding,” Smart said. “I think he made it okay to do. He showed the confidence, not only in our coaching staff, in our total program, that he knows he’s going to have an opportunity to get better and grow.
“I think that made it easier for Sony. Those two guys have a mutual respect. They are very different personality-wise, but they are both very talented.”
The return of the dynamic duo gives the Bulldogs a 1-2 punch behind second-year starter at quarterback in Jacob Eason. The combination has plenty of promise if the offensive line can improve.
A stat was quoted by a media member that more than 20 percent of plays run by Georgia last season ended with a tackle in the backfield.
That point was not lost on Smart during his visit to SEC Media Days on Tuesday.
“There are a lot of really good athletes running around (on defense) in this league,” Smart said. “You have to be able to block and we are trying to create ways to take pressure off offensive line. One of the best ways is to run the football and we feel like we have the personnel to do that.”
Add the fact that both Chubb and Michel are healthy and it stands to reason why many are picking the Bulldogs to win the East.
“The expectations he brought and the standard, just got higher and higher and bigger and bigger,” Michel said. “We just have to live up to it. I’m excited, the challenges he brings to the team.”
Georgia has several defensive players returning and should have improved depth.
“We have a lot of freshman that played last year on the defensive front. A lot of those guys have good size,” Smart said. “I think stamina is important. I’m a big believer in having guys that can turn and chase the ball because there’s so many loose plays.
“If you can get guys that can run and they’re 300 pounds, that’s an added bonus. But the game is turning more and more towards the 280-, 290-pound guys that can really run. That’s the thing we’ve tried to create and get more of. Because we got some big bodies on the defensive front, but we want as many guys as we can fly into the ball.”