But tonight that interview makes a lot more sense. On Saturday, Michel didn’t seem to want to answer my questions, which is frustrating in itself. After Wednesday night it seems clear why - the junior running back was disappointed Georgia didn't try to run the ball more against the Gators. Perhaps he thought talking with me or anyone in the media about it was the wrong way to handle things. Looking back that’s what it felt like more than anything else.
“I think we didn’t run the ball much today,” he told me to start the interview. “That wasn’t in our game plan. We tried to execute what was in our game plan.”
A little bit later I asked him: “At what point is this offense going to get things together?”
Michel: “Some games everybody is with Georgia; some games they are not. That’s part of college football.”
I’m not sure what he was saying on that one - probably: “You are annoying me. Please leave.”
Then after another question: “They have a great defense, but we barely ran the ball that much this game.”
Michel certainly has a point there.
It’s hard for these young guys. I’ve seen winning; I’ve seen losing. It’s always easier to deal with a team that’s won than one that’s lost. And Michel has always been a stand up guy. He’s likable, and that counts for something in my book.
But sometimes after a loss the truth comes out. What Michel wasn’t trying to do was voice to me that he was angry, frustrated - any adjective you want to use - not only with losing, but also with how Georgia lost.
I get that, and he was right to go with Nick Chubb this week to talk with offensive coordinator Jim Chaney about why this team can’t or won’t run the ball. The truth is UGA might not have run the ball against the Gators because they couldn’t run the ball against them. Then again, and here’s where Michel is correct, if you don’t try to run the ball, you don’t know if you can run the ball. And all it takes with backs like Michel and Chubb is one big run and a game changes for good - see the UNC game earlier this season.
Globally, my point here is a public recognition that while what we are seeing on the field isn’t good - at least the behind the scenes is healthy to the degree that those two guys feel like they have the relationship and respect necessary to talk with their coaches about what they are unhappy about.
Jacksonville, of late, has provided me some weird interviews. Two years ago there was this one: Jeremy Pruitt, emerging from a self-imposed media blackout after a stunning upset loss to a listless Gators team, asked me while I was interviewing him: “Aren't you embarrassed about (UGA’s defense) tonight?”
I didn't have any role in what happened that night... not sure if Pruitt understood that or not. He told me a year later to never allow a reporter who worked for me to ask him a question again. That was after a loss as well.
Back to the present, the guys in the media room - at least some of them - are going to spin this that there is a big rift here between the players and the coaches. The AJC is going to push that narrative… this has become a click-bait world. And while it is true this program is 4-4 and teetering on its worst season since 2010, it is also on a good foundation when players can go and talk with coaches.
Could we say that last season? Which player went to Brian Schottenheimer last year to talk about how bad the offense was in 2015? If anyone did we didn’t hear about it publicly. Then again, Schottenheimer and Pruitt were too busy fighting about the other’s inadequacies to solve problems. Both were too worried about their next step.
That doesn’t appear to be a problem in Athens right now, and communication is never a bad thing.
Another comparison? Butch Jones was directing the band on Rocky Top five games ago. Today? His best running back has let it be known that he’s transferring for his senior season. Tennessee is Voling on their face once more. Amazing.
Georgia’s offensive line isn’t going to magically get better. And I don’t get the feeling that this is a Shawn Williams moment. But it is good to know that there is still very much of a pulse in this program. Kids, particularly two of the better players who will be playing on Sundays soon, care. This is one step in a very long and messy process, but it’s a step forward… not back.