Georgia's Line not getting "whipped" any more

Nick Jones

ATHENS – Ever since the Oct. 28 Florida game, Georgia's offensive linemen have been a little irritated.

That's the day their head coach Mark Richt told anyone who would listen that they got "whipped," and that blunt characterization got under their skin.

"I think it probably did," line coach Neil Callaway said.

Two weeks ago, the Bulldog linemen found an unlikely source to relieve their frustration. Behind the line's best game of the year, Georgia (7-4) rushed for a season-high 227 yards and thrashed Auburn 37-15.

"One of the Auburn coaches came up to me after the game and shook my hand and said, ‘Thank you for whipping our butt,'" senior tackle Ken Shackleford said. "I don't know if he was being sarcastic. I think he was mad at his front five because they didn't play like he thought they were going to play, or maybe we played better than what he expected us to play."

Heading into Saturday's 3:30 p.m. game against No. 16 Georgia Tech (9-2), the Bulldogs have given up the second-fewest sacks in the SEC (13) and are the sixth-best rushing team in the conference (136.5).

That's all behind a line that's played just six players in more than 80 percent of the snaps this year and shown the ill effects of that lack of depth at times.

"It gets frustrating," senior Michael Turner said. "We never fell apart as a group, but you could tell that we were tired and we let it show a few games. We finally got it together for Auburn."

Other the Florida game, the line hasn't played "that poorly," Richt said.

"I think if we h ad more depth the guys that we have would have even played better," he said. "We had a bunch of guys beat up, bruised, tired, fighting it out every week."

Callaway is happy his group -- led by senior starters Nick Jones, Daniel Inman and Shackleford and do-it-all backup Turner, another senior – is closing the season strong.

"When you've got a good bunch of guys, you want them competing and playing hard," he said. "As long as you do that, you're all right. This next game will be very important for us. We're going to have to be very sharp and focused. It'll be the most difficult challenge by far."

Georgia Tech is second in the ACC with 29 sacks. The Bulldogs have given up just four sacks in the last four games and all of those came in the aforementioned whipping against Florida.

"We've had missed assignments, but I feel as the season progressed, we played better and better each game," Turner said. "It always feels nice when you play as a whole like that and you finally click. It's bad that it happened so late in the season."

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