Georgia coach Kirby Smart details center issues that hampered Arkansas attack

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There are two players who touch the ball every play on Georgia’s offense. Most discussed is the quarterback position, which has been and will continue to be discussed a lot after the team’s 37-10 win over Arkansas.The other is the central position. Like the quarterback, Georgia turned the players to the position. Trey Hill took the start, but Warren Ericson came on and took a few reps on the spot during the game.

Related: Kirby Smart: Georgia football quarterback JT Daniels will be cleared for Auburn game

There was a notable miss of the quarterback where D’Wan Mathis couldn’t make the snap. The play resulted in a 17-yard loss and knocked the Bulldogs out of goal reach. It also turned out to be Mathis’ last shot of the first half, when Stetson Bennett replaced him on the next disc.

With Bennett in the game, Georgia’s offense finally got things going, eventually taking a 34-10 lead before Mathis was reinserted into the game.

What makes Instant Problems so interesting is that the Bulldogs have one of the best crosses on Conference Hill. He was named second All-SEC team this preseason by coaches and media. He’s also Georgia’s most experienced offensive lineman, having started every game of the 2019 season to accompany the four he started at right guard in 2018.

But even going to Hill’s first significant game experience against Kentucky in 2018, Hill struggled to slam the ball. He came in for an injured Lamont Gaillard and had issues in that game including a stray snap that resulted in a fumble when Georgia was in the red zone.

Hill is not a natural center, as he was before the 2019 season, as he only started one game at the post during his high school career. Ericson, on the other hand, did it for North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Georgia.

Related: Homegrown: Trey Hill stands at center of Georgia attack

When Ericson enters the game, Hill is still on the field, as he creeps up to the guard post. All four starts during his debut season in Georgia came on guard.

“Trey is playing a really good guard,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “In a lot of ways Trey can play guard and build more power than Warren can, in terms of strength and bodyweight. So he is able to relieve Ben [Cleveland] and [Justin] Shaffer, and kick them and not have a drop in the middle.

Rotation along the inside of the offensive line is not uncommon under Smart, as Cleveland and Cade Mays have traded frequently during the 2019 season for Georgia. But that’s not something that happened at the center.

Ericson, in addition to playing center, offers similar positional versatility starting the Sugar Bowl win over Baylor at right guard. The Bulldogs also turned on the right tackle, with Warren McClendon also replacing Owen Condon on Saturday.

The quarterback-center exchange created problems for Georgia, although it wasn’t obvious to the naked eye that there was a problem. A slam too right or too low can ruin an entire game, even when the quarterback gets his hands on it.

“If you have a bad shot and it takes you out of direction, you can’t have this,” Smart said. “It takes on a cumulative effect of everyone doing their job, and if a player is out, a receiver doesn’t cut a safety and he turns what would be a 20 yard gain into a five yard gain. If the snap is off, you go back and look, there were a few times the snap was just out of key and it took the quarterback offline, then he brought the running back offline.

In the first half of the game for Arkansas, Georgia’s running backs were just 27 yards rushing on 12 carries. Arkansas’ defense last season surrendered 221 rushing yards per game, making it the worst rushing defense in the SEC.

All eyes will be on the Georgian quarterbacks this week and how they play against the No.7-ranked Auburn Tigers. It will also be worth watching how the crosses manage to get the quarterback off the ball. Because if what happens against Arkansas continues, it doesn’t matter where JT Daniels, Stetson Bennett, D’Wan Mathis or Carson Beck put the ball.

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