After a lackluster performance against Arkansas, the Georgia offensive line had a much better performance against Auburn this past weekend. The Bulldogs rushed for over 200 yards and two scores against the No. 7 Tigers, and credit those ‘big uglies’ up front for the run-game success. The offensive line also gave up one sack this past weekend as well.
Head coach Kirby Smart made a snarky comment after Georgia’s 27-6 win on Saturday about the offensive line play.
“Well I don’t know. They were terrible last week,” Smart said facetiously when asked about if the line gets any credit. “So something must have just happened. The Wizard of Oz came and saw them and gave them all courage and ability and they played better. They’re the same guys, guys. It’s not any different. I attributed it to the fact that we didn’t have a ton of penalties although we had too many and we didn’t turn the ball over. It’s not rocket science.”
Still, it seems there is some truth to that. The offensive line play, in fact, was better against Auburn. Redshirt senior right tackle Ben Cleveland even seems to agree.
“Honestly, walking off the field, I didn’t feel like I played very well,” Cleveland said on Monday. “I thought I left some things out there on the field. But, after going back and watching, I realized that I played better than I thought I did. I’m obviously very pleased with that, but it just leaves room for improvement.”
That’s something you want to hear from a player who won SEC Offensive Line Player of the Week.
Cleveland said he thinks the unit just realized that they needed to do better as a whole.
“I think it was just a bunch of guys on the team recognizing we had a lot to improve on, and really making an effort to make sure we got it covered,” he said. “We want to go out there and make a statement of how we run the football; how we feel about ourselves, within an organizational standpoint.”
Cleveland said the guys on the offensive line don’t listen to all the negativity.
“That’s not listening to all the negatives that people are saying,” he said. “That helps nobody; we really don’t pay that much attention to that. We just worry about what’s going on within ourselves.”
A big part of Georgia’s success is because of redshirt freshman Warren McClendon, who made his first start against the Tigers.
“I think Warren is very good in the pass protection game,” Cleveland said. “He gives great effort. The kid wants to play. That right there is 90 percent of the battle, just having the want-to to be out there and move people around. I think that’s something he does very well. He gives what he’s got. I think he’s going to be very vital to our success.”
Cleveland said that a lack of preparation has nothing to do with the unit’s performance against Arkansas. And it also seems his senior leadership seems to be showing, especially when helping out the younger guys.
“Honestly, I cannot remember a time where we went into a game and thought, we could have done this, or could have done that,” he said. “I feel like our coaching staff always does an extremely good job of making sure we got what we need, we’re good on our assignments, and stuff like that. I think guys realize that if they’re not picking stuff up, it’s just like anything else. If you’re not getting something, you’re going to spend a little more time trying to figure it out. I think our guys have done a good job of that in order to be prepared.”
Still, Cleveland expects that level of intensity to keep up against Tennessee this weekend and that he likes where he’s at currently.
“I’ve never seen a problem with our environment. I like our team and I like our coaching staff,” he said. “That’s viewed differently by every individual. That’s up to them and how they see things. As far as improvement goes, I feel like everybody gets a little better week by week. Playing a 10-game SEC schedule, it’s very hard to keep your body, what you feel like is tip-top shape. Keep all the bumps and bruises away. That’s when guys just got to take it on their own, get extra treatment, do what they need to do to feel healthy. I feel like everybody improves every week just because the more reps you get the more you’re going to learn it and the better you’re going to be.”