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Breakdown: UGA's Lazy Blocking Saturday

ATHENS - Jonathan Branch breaks down UGA's lazy blocking last Saturday.

Usually in these breakdowns, I’m looking at plays to see, understand and show why they happened, or highlight bigger trends that occur over the course of a game or season. But sometimes there are games that are so littered with poor execution that the Xs and Os of the game are underscored by bad technique and a lack of effort. Georgia’s matchup with Nicholls State last Saturday is a perfect example. The biggest takeaway for me last week was Georgia’s overall lack of enthusiasm and energy. In a game like Saturday’s, the overmatched team that’s getting paid to play the big boy should be buried by halftime or, at worst, the end of the third quarter. In order for that to happen, the overwhelming favorite must be focused on the details. That’s not what happened last Saturday. There was an air of apathy around the team, and it highlighted the critical need for some veteran leadership to step up and take charge (more on that later). For now, let’s take a look at just how poor Georgia’s execution was on Saturday… Poor Execution, Pt. 1 Georgia was beat at the point of attack repeatedly by Nicholls last Saturday. While I don’t think it’s time to panic, Georgia’s lack of focus, energy and (as a result) execution is certainly alarming. Perhaps it was a hangover from North Carolina or hangovers from a Friday night in Athens (those noon games always seem to bring out the worst), Georgia was sloppy and unenthused in this game, and because of that, the Bulldogs allowed Nicholls to hang around until the clock hit triple zeros. After a very well-played first offensive series that resulted in a touchdown, Georgia’s second drive got off to a negative start on this toss play to Nick Chubb. Here we see Georgia running the crack block on the defensive end with Jeb Blazevich, sure to be a hallmark of this offense under Jim Chaney. This allows left tackle Tyler Catalina (72) to kick out and block the safety and Isaac Nauta (18), who is in at fullback, to pick up any open defenders and lead the way for Chubb. Blazevich gets a piece of the defensive end, but allows him to penetrate, forcing Nauta to pick him up. Even if this was a designed combo block, they failed, as the defensive end pinballs his way through and continues to disrupt the play. Failing to block the defensive end is even worse when combined with Catalina’s poor technique to finish off the safety and create room for Chubb to get outside. Instead the safety flies downhill, past Catalina and forces Chubb to re-route. Even if Chubb makes the safety miss, which he does, the defensive end gets down the line and forces Chubb out of bounds with the help of his Nicholls teammates, including a linebacker who Kublanow allows to run right across his face. With nine defenders around the box, Georgia can’t afford to have three offensive linemen (Catalina, Kublanow and Pyke) fail to make a block and two jumbo athletes (Blazevich and Nauta) let one defender through on the play side. One final look and a look at the end result: Poor execution, Pt. 2 On this play, Georgia is again running to the left side of the formation on a toss to Sony Michel, and again left tackle Tyler Catalina is pulling, while a tight end (Nauta) seals the defensive end with a down block. This play is designed and executed pretty well until Catalina completely whiffs on his block in the open field against the safety, who once again flies up to the line of scrimmage without any resistance from Catalina. Up until the moment Catalina misses his block, Jayson Stanley was doing a nice job on his block, but once as the safety flies by Catalina, Michel is forced to head outside, where he could have a one-on-one with the cornerback (10). However, bouncing it out allows the linebacker Stanley is blocking to get back into the play, and now three defenders converge on Sony and stop the play near the line of scrimmage. Georgia has a three-on-three situation that, if blocked correctly, would’ve allowed Sony Michel a one-on-one in open space or, even better, a cutback lane that No. 1 can turn into a big gain. The Need for Leadership As I mentioned above, Georgia had a sloppy and ill-focused day against Nicholls. But for a program that overhauled it’s staff in the offseason and brought in perhaps the best defensive coordinator in the country from the best program in the country, it cannot afford to continue with sloppy performances due to a lack of focus. Focus, energy and attention to detail, however, must come from within the players on the team. Coaches can put guys in position to make plays, but they have to execute and the onus is on the players at the end of the day. Georgia has a glaring need for leadership on the team. Kirby acknowledged that in his post-game press conference. Sure, they have players who have proven they are great individually. Nick Chubb and Dominick Sanders come to mind. Those two aren’t the most vocal, but someone within the team has to step up and challenge their teammates to be great, on every play against every opponent and remain focused on the details. I think back to Shawn Williams calling out his defensive teammates prior to the Florida game in 2012 as a perfect example. Williams wasn’t the best player on that defense, but he knew what they needed to do and what they needed to hear in order to do it. Georgia has a ton of youth on this roster, and some of that youth plays major roles (Roquan Smith, Natrez Patrick, Trenton Thompson, Jacob Eason, etc.). Georgia needs those younger guys to be willing to lead now, especially since some of those upperclassmen were engrained a culture where it was acceptable to play into overtime against Georgia Southern (2015) or lose to a Florida team that only completes three passes (2014). There’s no time for that anymore. Georgia’s mantra is ‘Attack the Day,’ but that’s not what happened on Saturday. The good news is that Georgia escaped with a win and the tight game wasn’t a result of a major flaw in the playbook or a lack of talent. The Bulldogs simply didn’t have any juice and their play reflected that. On the one hand, it’s a game the team can and should flush; don’t let that happen again, and no one will care enough to remember it two months from now. On the other hand, it’s a wake-up call for the players because if they play without energy and the will to execute properly, they’ll have an October and November as equally as tough to watch as 2015.

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