A tale of two Marks: Bradley is stumped; Richt yawns.

With all the question marks surrounding the Georgia program going into the ’07 season – an inexperienced offensive line, a receiving corps without a proven track record, three new starters and no experienced depth at linebacker, for example – Mark Bradley looks at the one thing that’s really keeping Mark Richt up at night:

… This year’s question has become almost an annual stumper. Once again, Georgia doesn’t know who’ll be the primary ballcarrier. Once again, Georgia doesn’t even know if it’ll have a primary ballcarrier.

Exactly why is this a big deal? Bradley fumbles around with this. Georgia had its best year in many moons in 2002 with Musa Smith being the primary back, but Bradley has no answer as to whether there’s a causal relationship there, and, indeed, goes on to note that

(t)here’s some merit in Richt’s rotation — fresh legs tend to move faster — and it’s true that Georgia averaged more yards rushing in 2004 and 2005 than in Musa Smith’s banner season.

Aha! But then Bradley finds a telling factoid that he thinks says much without explaining anything. The Bulldogs under Richt are 23-2 when they generate a 100-yard rusher, he says. On the surface that sounds great, but wait a minute. How many of those are games where the Dawgs had a lead going into the late part of a game and just gave the ball to a back to grind out the clock to preserve the win? Given MR’s tendencies as a playcaller, I would imagine quite a few.

Here’s a list of all the backs that rushed for more than 100 yards per game in 2006 D-1:

Rank Player Pos Cl Gm Carries Net TDs Avg Ydspgm
1 Garrett Wolfe, Northern Ill. RB SR 13 309 1928 18 6.24 148.31
2 Ian Johnson, Boise St. RB SO 12 276 1714 25 6.21 142.83
3 Ray Rice, Rutgers RB SO 13 335 1794 20 5.36 138.00
4 Steve Slaton, West Virginia RB SO 13 248 1744 16 7.03 134.15
5 Ahmad Bradshaw, Marshall RB JR 12 249 1523 19 6.12 126.92
6 Dwayne Wright, Fresno St. RB JR 12 261 1462 11 5.60 121.83
7 Jon Cornish, Kansas RB SR 12 250 1457 8 5.83 121.42
8 P.J. Hill, Wisconsin RB FR 13 311 1569 15 5.05 120.69
9 Michael Hart, Michigan RB JR 13 318 1562 14 4.91 120.15
10 Darren McFadden, Arkansas TB SO 14 284 1647 14 5.80 117.64
11 Damion Fletcher, Southern Miss. RB FR 13 276 1388 11 5.03 106.77
12 Tony Hunt, Penn St. RB SR 13 277 1386 11 5.00 106.62
13 Tashard Choice, Georgia Tech RB JR 14 297 1473 12 4.96 105.21
14 Marshawn Lynch, California RB JR 13 223 1356 11 6.08 104.31
15 Kevin Smith, UCF RB SO 9 206 934 7 4.53 103.78
16 Patrick White, West Virginia QB SO 12 165 1219 18 7.39 101.58
17 Calvin Dawson, La.-Monroe RB JR 12 213 1210 11 5.68 100.83
18 Yvenson Bernard, Oregon St. RB JR 13 296 1307 12 4.42 100.54

It’s an impressive list of talent. But here are a few names you don’t see on the list – Florida, Ohio State, LSU, Southern Cal, Oklahoma. Many teams made it to BCS games this past season, including the winner of the title game, without having a 100 yard per game rusher.

There’s a time and a place for a featured back. It’s when you have one player who’s clearly separated himself from the others. Fortunately, Mark Richt understands this far better than Mark Bradley seems to.

… Richt doesn’t see the lack of a 1,000-yard back as a problem. “The good thing about Musa [Smith, who gained 1,324 yards in the breakthrough 2002 season] was that we had consistency there,” Richt said Saturday, speaking at Georgia’s media convocation. “But we didn’t have as many guys ready to play there. Musa was head and tails above everybody else. Until somebody separates himself from the pack, we’ll probably be [tailback] by committee.”

You can almost hear Bradley sputtering “but, but… but” in response. Richt could be missing somebody!

But it’d be a shame if Georgia looks up five years hence and realizes it left another resource untapped. Lest we forget, Terrell Davis never had a 1,000-yard season as a Bulldog under Ray Goff. As a Denver Bronco, Davis had four.

Yeah, it’s a shame that Goff couldn’t figure out what he had with Davis. But exactly whom does Bradley suggest should have had plays and carries shifted away from so that Davis could have shown out? Garrison Hearst started ahead of Davis. He didn’t exactly suck as a college back. The starting QB was Eric Zeier. How much would you take away from him? You can only play with one football at a time.

In the end, this is all much ado about not very much.

If not having a featured back in 2007 turns out to be the biggest problem Georgia faces, it’ll be a good year. Actually, a very good year…

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8 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Media Punditry/Foibles

8 responses to “A tale of two Marks: Bradley is stumped; Richt yawns.

  1. kckd

    Another reason that 100 yard rusher 23-2 record might be misleading is that when you are splitting carries with others and one gets 100 yards that probably means you are getting near 200 yards as a team.

    If you do that, you are probably gonna win most of your games.

    If we had just one featured back, that wouldn’t be the case and that record might not look as good.

  2. kckd

    About Terrell Davis. I didn’t follow the Dawgs quite as closely now as I did then. But if I’m not mistaken, I think we pretty much tried to run the same offense of 1992 with Davis as the featured back, just like Hearst was. But whether it was the blocking or T. D. not reaching his potential we couldn’t move the ball very well and got our butts kicked by people that shouldn’t have been doing that.

    Halfway through we went to a passing offense, wide open style and started winning a little more often.

    That’s the way I remember it.

  3. For some reason, Davis got in RG’s doghouse early on and never saw a level of playing time that would have gotten him more attention.

    Every time I’ve read an interview with TD about his time at Georgia, he’s been pretty clear that he doesn’t have much appreciation for RG.

    TD was never the featured back in ’92. Hearst was #1 all the way. The OC was McDuffie, who basically ran the FSU offense. He was the best OC Georgia’s ever had, IMO.

    The ’92 team should have played for a national championship. It was the most talented offense Georgia has ever fielded, which was another reason TD got lost in the shuffle a little. There were tons of weapons. TOs in the UT game and defensive failures against UT and UF proved to be the downfall that season.

  4. kckd

    Maybe I was unclear. I was saying I thought we tried to run the same offense we ran in 1992 with TD in 1993. Didn’t work.

    TD was a backup to GH much in the same way Hampton was to Worley early on. You could see the potential.

    Dr. Z, the SI NFL writer, had TD as a future NFL star in the mag after the 1992 season. I remember seeing that and thinking that’s pretty bold considering he’s never played. I also thought maybe he knows something there and TD was gonna be a star at UGA. Well, he did know something obviously.

    I know all about McDuffie (tragic end), Hearst and the 1992 team. All I know is big things were expected of TD in 1993 and it didn’t happen and the Dawgs struggled on offense at the start of that season.

  5. Here’s what Wikipedia says about TD’s college career:

    “At Long Beach State, Davis joined the football team that was coached by former Washington Redskins coach George Allen. Unfortunately, the coaches didn’t think he was ready to play, so he was redshirted his freshman year in order to give him an extra year of eligibility. Davis never got to play a real game for coach Allen, because Allen died after the end of 1990 season. Davis played the following season and rushed for 262 yards on 55 carries. Long Beach State eliminated its football program due to budget concerns at the end of the 1991 season, ending in a dismal 2-9 record. Davis wanted to continue playing, so he needed to find another school to transfer to. The University of Georgia and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) encouraged Davis to join their teams. Davis’ first choice was UCLA, but since they didn’t offer him a scholarship, he chose Georgia. During his first season at Georgia, Davis played backup to Garrison Hearst, one of the leading rushers in college football and a candidate for the Heisman Trophy. After Hearst graduated, Davis became the top running back during the 1993 season, and rushed for 824 yards on 167 carries. Davis’ senior season at Georgia got off to a rocky start when he aggravated a tear in his hamstring muscle against Tennessee early in the season, which took him out of the lineup for three games. Davis claims coach Ray Goff never liked him and forced him to practice while injured, which lead to his torn hamstring. Davis only ran for 445 yards on 67 carries that year, but his last two games were great, rushing for 113 and 121 yards respectively. Those totals got him recognized to be invited to the Blue-Gray Football Classic game, after another senior running back couldn’t play. Davis’ reputation for being injury-prone hurt his standing in the NFL draft, along with the fact that Coach Goff denied scouts game film of Davis.”

    Any way you look at it, TD’s a poor choice for Bradley to use as an example of why Richt should look for a primary runner.

  6. Tenn_Dawg

    “Davis’ reputation for being injury-prone hurt his standing in the NFL draft, along with the fact that Coach Goff denied scouts game film of Davis.”

    Wow!!! I never knew that. That is a pretty shitty thing to do to a young man. Looks like TD got the last laugh though.

  7. kckd

    I don’t think Goff was a great coach, but I kind of think there is more to this story. I’ve never seen Goff as an SOB.

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