What if it is the year of the running back?

Notwithstanding the Mason for Heisman trollfest we endured yesterday, there’s a very good reason to question why it’s reasonable to expect ginormous production out of Georgia’s passing game this season.  If you’ve got a ridiculously gifted stable of running backs, as Georgia is blessed with, why is it necessary, or even desirable, to place the focus of the offense on a guy with only two career starts?

And as Mike Herndon points out, Georgia is hardly alone in the conference in that regard.

In 2013, the SEC was awash in experienced quarterbacks. Johnny Manziel was the defending Heisman winner. AJ McCarron, Georgia’s Aaron Murray and Connor Shaw at South Carolina were studies of consistency. Zach Mettenberger was looking to build off a promising first year as the starter at LSU.

All of those signal-callers are gone now, as are Austyn Carta-Samuels (Vanderbilt),James Franklin (Missouri) and Tyler Russell (Mississippi State).

With so many new faces behind center this fall and a bevy of talented rushers returning, could the SEC go smashmouth this fall?

… While nearly half the SEC returns quarterbacks with significant starting experience in 2014, only one of those – Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace – was among the conference leaders in passing yardage. Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott was a part-time starter in 2013, while Florida’s Jeff Driskel and Tennessee’s Justin Worley missed most of last season due to injury.

What’s more, the conference’s top five receivers, in terms of yardage, are all gone. The SEC returns only two players – Mississippi State’s Jameon Lewis and Auburn’s Sammie Coates – who had more than 750 yards receiving last year.

You’ve got a quarterback who’s got to find his way with a receiving corps that’s also finding its way back after being devastated with injuries.  The tight end position, always a key to Georgia’s passing game, brings one career start into the 2014 season.  Why put an unnecessary amount of pressure on those guys? Especially early?  And especially if much of the SEC is facing the same issue?

But the wealth of experienced rushers will provide a crutch upon which many SEC offenses can lean until their new quarterbacks get their feet wet. Indeed, at places like Alabama, LSU and Vanderbilt, a more conservative approach may be the ticket in September before a more proficient and potent passing game can emerge by November.

Play action is the bread and butter of Richt’s and Bobo’s offensive approach. Selling the running game makes Mason’s job that much easier.  And if that gives the passing game time to adjust over the first part of the season, so much the better.

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60 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

60 responses to “What if it is the year of the running back?

  1. Russ

    I agree 100%. Of course I’m from the Dooley days but I’d still run it 35-40 times a game with the running backs we have. We can get creative with formations and maybe some of the “runs” are 3 yard swing passes.

  2. 69Dawg

    When a lot of teams have good running backs it all comes down to the offensive lines. If ours can open holes, then our backs can run wild. If they can’t, then we will see our backs struggle to get back to the line of scrimmage. Simple as that.

  3. Georgia, formerly the SEC poster child for the pro-style offense, has run a lot of spread the past couple years, and don’t look for that to change. Much of that is because Mason likes it that way, according to Bobo.

    “I think the biggest thing is keep adapting to what you’re trying to do offensively, and get the guys that can make plays the ball. The big misconception to us if (that) we’re gonna be two-back and run it all the time. We were 75-percent one-back last year,” Bobo said. “And everybody thinks, Well you’re gonna play Georgia you’re gonna be play-action pass. We used to. Well that’s when we had a little different personnel. So you’re going to adapt to your personnel and how they play. You’ll probably see a little more spread this year too because that’s what Hutson is comfortable with. And that’s what Aaron was comfortable with.”

    Read more here: http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/2014/06/18/3159676/in-addendum-masons-summer-bobos.html#storylink=cpy

    Interesting.

    • Macallanlover

      We may have run some spread formations/plays recently but it is hard to characterize UGA as anything other than a pro-style offense. Not sure there are a significant number of NFL teams that run a pure pro-style any longer. I do think the number of plays we run from a one back set is something of a mystery to me because we have so many talented, versatile backs that are capable of doing multiple tasks from that formation. Given our OL issues it seems we could use a FB, or HB, on the field 75% of the time.

      • AthensHomerDawg

        “Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.” – Leonardo da Vinci

      • Sh3rl0ck

        We run a single-back set so much because of our offensive line. It is an attempt to force the defense into their nickel package and remove a man from the box. With six blockers, most teams block better with five linemen and a TE instead of five linemen and a FB (i.e the TE is closer to his blocking assignment so he doesn’t have to block in space like a FB).

        If our line could block on every play like they did the last 8 minutes of the SC game, we would run 75% of our plays with a FB against a seven man front. When they dropped the eighth man into the box, we would play-action over the top.

        • Macallanlover

          Fair point, and I realize it does take some pressure off the line with an extra DB, it just seems like we have one missed assignment so often, the extra blocker would be a better option since we can determine where we are going and isolate on that side. Certainly not complaining about the way our offense has moved the ball or produced points the past several years, there has not been more than a handful of games where we didn’t solve the puzzle pretty well.

        • We run a single-back set so much because of our offensive line. It is an attempt to force the defense into their nickel package and remove a man from the box.

          Exactly. With mediocre OL’s, you’re somewhat handicapped with what you can do in certain games where your OL doesn’t match up. Our OL had a great game vs. Carolina last year, and at the end Bobo just let them eat. I don’t recall that happening much since the early Richt years, where we would dominate the 4th quarter pounding the ball. Nothing I love better.

          Which is why Clemson worries me. They are a much better front this year. We’ll have to spread them out and be firing on all 8 cylinders because of it. And we don’t have a history of firing on 8 cylinders offensively in a competitive season opener.
          ~~~

    • DoubleV

      I don’t blame UGA for throwing the ball so much and running so few times, they get 9 yards when they throw it, but only 4.5 when they run it, so it only seems to reason you’re going to call more pass plays when the numbers work out like that. It’s really the only shot at beating defenses like Alabama, Mettenberger & Murray both gave Bama all they could handle throwing the ball effectively, or you need a dual-threat Qb like Manziel or Nick Marshall, which UGA won’t have in Mason.

      Should have gone with Nick Marshall.

    • “You’ll probably see a little more spread this year too because that’s what Hutson is comfortable with. And that’s what Aaron was comfortable with.”

      It’s a good point (about the spread). But it’s nothing new. Our offense won’t look much different, in fact I suspect it’ll look the same. We’ve been running spread for a long time, and quite a bit the last 3 years or so.

      But that doesn’t mean we won’t pound the ball. In my mind, spread ‘em out and pound it might be the best way to go. You have so much more flexibility that way.

      But defenses can’t focus on just stopping that. We’re truly multiple. We can run anything, and quite often do. I love our offensive system.
      ~~~

  4. Keese

    Having running backs that are threats in the short passing game….that’s an area I hope Bobo can be real creative with his play calling this season and plays to Hutsons strengths

  5. DawgFaithful

    Good Lord. I just read all the comments yesterday about the 5000yd Heisman/Championship season that Mason is sitting on… I’m pulling for Hutson but my biggest concern other than the secondary is the drop off we will have at QB. I’m not sure how effective he’ll be going vertical. That being said, I hope the Senator banned that douche for a while.

    • Midgadawg

      Going vertical or the lack of is also my biggest concern- for some reason I just can’t shake a bad feeling about potential QB play – hopefully I’m wrong- stats are all good – but wins are the bottom line.

      • VoodooDawg

        Sure, with state record setting phenom QB Hutson Mason we’ll pass well, this is Georgia, but what continues to concern the fans is never ending up near the top in rushing, in the conference, or in nationally.

  6. Skeptic Dawg

    I’ve said it before, others have said it as well, but it all boils down to the OL. Without a LT, RT and LG, this team is going to struggle to move the ball in any form or fashion. That is why this team has a ceiling of 7 to 9 wins.

    • It certainly puts unnecessary stress and pressure on the entire offense, even though we are truly multiple. We can do as much offensively as anybody. But if those OL positions struggle, that leaves no margin for error for the rest. Mason, WR’s, TE, FB, H-Back, all have to be on to keep any semblance of balance.

      Often, we’ve made enough mistakes, in those games where opponents matchup with us, to lose, or at least make a nice contribution to losing. Throw in our longstanding habit of doing it to ourselves on Defense and ST’s, and it’s easy to see how we’re 2-10, or whatever it is, against top ranked teams.

      Which is why it is so important for us to break that habit, and learn how to win again. That there is real evidence we’re trying to do that now, and not only just Pruitt but as a Staff, is the best thing that’s happened to us since BVG left, IMO.

      We’re talented enough, though barely, to withstand a weak OL most of the time if we play solid ball and don’t beat ourselves. If we could add in a little defense, which it looks like we finally will under Pruitt, then that helps the offense, already handicapped by a mediocre OL, a great deal.

      But, as I’ve tried to point out this week, it’d be very nice if we’d target, and go out and recruit elite OL, wherever they may be. Do whatever it takes to get them in here.

      This is not the ACC of the ’80’s and ’90’s, where you could just dominate everywhere else and play with just ordinary OL’s. Richt needs to figure that out, IMHO, and turn his staff loose to go find those guys we need to alleviate the pressure, on not just the offense, but the whole team.
      ~~~

      • Skeptic Dawg

        Ivey, you and DawgFaithful below both make solid points. From what I saw last year I have little confidence in Theus at LT, less than zero confidence in Houston at RT, and apparently no one wants to play LG. I am of the believe that both Mason and Gurley will struggle due to a poor O-line. That and a poor secondary are the reasons I believe 7 or 8 wins is the ceiling for 2014.

    • DawgFaithful

      OL is definitely important but our biggest problem last year outside of injuries was DB play. Our OL play was iffy but doesn’t it seem to be every year? They’ve played well enough to support the highest scoring offenses in UGA history over the last 3-4 years and we had questions at OL all those years in the preseason. Concerned about that group but more concerned about DBs and QB. The one constant we’ve had in that 3-4 year span has been QB and now he’s gone. I’m just not sold on Hutson’s arm strength. Running the ball/play action will help for sure but based on what ive seen he’s going to throw a lot of high, low velocity, floating deep balls. If he gets his timing down, (get it out quick like Wuerffel(not saying he’s Wuerffel)) it will help but nothing beats a cannon of an arm. Murrays arm strength was better than average at best. His is less than Murrays.

      • I wouldn’t argue with any of that. But it’s the synthesis of the whole thing. Now, we don’t have that gunslinger we’ve had in the past. And the OL isn’t any better, nor is it going to be any time soon.

        So you better have great balance, and not only that, a defense. And not only that, a team that doesn’t have a habit of beating itself.

        That’s where I think this team is, and what our needs are. We don’t have the overall talent to just dominate people. And chances are, with maybe an exception or two, we never will have in the future. Heck, we need to improve our recruiting just to stay level with the rest of the League.

        But what we CAN BE be is SOLID. And that will get us more wins than any other one thing we could talk about. Even if we were to gain, say, Alabama’s talent, we still would have to do the other stuff, and do it well.

        As I’ve said many times now, we have all the resources at Georgia that we need (not that we couldn’t do better from an administrative standpoint) to compete with anybody, anywhere. We just have to make the most of what we have.

        The one constant we’ve had in that 3-4 year span has been QB and now he’s gone.

        I’m an Aaron Murray fan. But the fact is, Murray spent the first four years of his Georgia career fighting off the monster, in his head, of playing in the big games. That is a matter of record, and the film doesn’t lie.

        The thing I like about Mason, despite the lack of arm strength, is his mentality. In that department, he’s got Murray beat by a mile, IMHO.

        <br /><br />
  7. Cosmic Dawg

    The beauty of play action is sneakiness, of course, and I think CMB will use his senior QB to surprise with just how much we air it out. Our WR corps is stocked with a lot of talent, too, and if you correctly believe they’re gonna have to respect Gurley et al in the backfield. I think we’re going to see a lot of long passing plays.

  8. HurricaneJohnny

    I agree with the Senator, Hutson Mason is simply horrible, if the backs can’t beat 8-9 man fronts, twill be a long season. Looking at 7-6 or 8-5 type of year, especially, as the Senator agrees, since Mason is so weak compared to the guy Mike Herndon mentions in SEC record setter Aaron Murray. Let’s face it, Gurley and Marshall have missed games because of injuries, and Georgia has no productive back behind them with any experience.

  9. HurricaneJohnny

    Douglas averaged 4.1 yards a carry (#39 in the SEC), Marshall was about the same, maybe 4.4 ypc (#33 in the SEC). Not exactly a “ridiculous stable”? Talk about exaggeration. If Gurley gets hurt again, and he likely will, AGAIN, because he’ll get the majority of carries early on, looking at 3 or 4 loss team.

  10. HurricaneJohnny

    Gurley is over-hyped. he ranked #14 in rushing yards per carry in the SEC, not even a top 10 back in his own conference. And injury prone.

    Todd Gurley ranked #61 in yards per carry nationally. Guys at Bama, Tex A/M, LSU, all top 20 in nation.

    Gurley is average.

    • DawgFaithful

      Troll here. .. probably same guy from yesterday under a different screen name. Total idiot. Are you a tech fan?

  11. HurricaneJohnny

    Georgia has only finished in the top 40 nationally in rushing once since 2007, that was with NFL back Moreno. Only #37 that year.

    Senator wants to get everybody hyped about Georgia rushing game, truth is, it’s not going to happen under Mark Richt or Bobo.

    Georgia just doesn’t scheme well in the rush game.

  12. HurricaneJohnny

    The Senator did a post the other day about Hutson Mason being the 9th best Qb in the SEC. I think that’s generous. He’s actually #14 best in the SEC, perfect, his jersey number.

  13. DoubleV

    UGA never finishes in the top 3 in the Sec in rushing. Just doesn’t happen. Much better chance of winning the games through the air if you look at UGA’s history under Mark Richt. UGA isn’t know for their productive rushing, I think they finished #11 in the SEC with Gurley, I mean, come on man, if you can’t crack the top 10 in your own conference with Gurley, you got issues.

  14. Macallanlover

    Damn, who let the retards out? Shouldn’t there be a minimum CFB IQ before allowing someone to post? All despondent now that I know Gurley isn’t that good based on last year’s rushing record on one leg for a partial season. I was counting on him contributing a little. Our running game sux man, and here we had it all figured to be near the top of the conference. there must be some bad dudes out there on those other teams.

    • PComet

      I agree, Gurley finishing #61 in rushing is outstanding. Love the excuses Georgia fans come up with, Gurley played on one leg? Face it, Georgia doesn’t belong in the top tier in the conference in rushing. Numbers don’t lie and neither do dead dogs.

  15. If you’ve got a ridiculously gifted stable of running backs, as Georgia is blessed with, why is it necessary, or even desirable, to place the focus of the offense on a guy with only two career starts?

    We’re not going to. That’s why the OL is so critical to the first two games, and probably the season. Those talented backs need space, and no Georgia QB has had consistent success without a good running game.

    Mason will have a good year if we can run. Probably a very good year. But in our system, it’s all about balance. Mason has to be a threat, too, or the defense can load up and stop the run. There’s nothing antithetical, it works both ways.

    But it has to start with our OL.
    ~~~

  16. W Cobb Dawg

    Said this back in 2012 when some folks complained about Gurley’s blocking: Gurley is a terrific talent, and we should get the ball in his hands as often as possible. If he’s not the ballcarrier, he should be a decoy. Sure, we’ve got other talented players, but Gurley can get this team to a championship.

  17. PComet

    If Mason is as bad as the Sneator thinks, teams will commit a bunch to the run. So goes Mason, so goes Georgia. Let’s hope the Senator was as wrong about Mason as he was when predicting Mett & Marshall wouldn’t do anything after they left Georgia….thanks for the laugh Senator…your blog is dumb, but entertaining.

    • DawgFaithful

      Hurricanes, Comets… forces of nature. If you’re not the same guy, you 2 should definitely get together. I’m thinking gatekeeper/key master of Gozer type relationship. Circle jerks and reach arounds.

      • DawgFaithful

        I bet you’re Thomas Brown too. If not you guys really should get together and mind meld. You all sound alike. Same level of delusion. 1st ones to go in the event of a zombie apocalypse.

  18. Mike Cooley

    I think Mason will be ok. But I think a lot of people don’t really realize how good Murray was. Especially last year. To an extent it’s an example of human nature at work. Murray was there for a long time and people got used to him and didn’t appreciate him. The same people don’t see the backup qb play and make the leap that he would be better. That starts to snowball and before long you’ve got a noisy contingent within the fan base that truly believes the backup should start even though they’ve never seen him play. At this point a lot of folks seem to think Mason is a lot better than he could possibly be with no more experience than he has. I think Mason will do alright but we are going to miss Murray and I think it’s going to catch some people by surprise how much of a drop off there will be.

  19. Rebar

    Mason will not be able to make the back shoulder throw that Murray was so good at; but Mason will be more like D. Greene, knowledgeable and concise.

    • Good point. The back shoulder throw to Davis in the Spring Game scared me a little, even though it went for a TD. That kind of throw can easily be a 100-yard pic-6 against a top DB.

      Nevertheless, I’m comfortable with Mason, because of what you said. And because I think he has some moxie.
      ~~~

      • Dawgaholic

        All Mason did at the spring game was throw back shoulder. Not sure what you were watching or if you saw it. Mason is not going to beat teams with arm strength. Everyone, Mason, Bobo, and 12-15 DCs included know this. Mason would not be the first college quarterback to have great success without great arm strength and he would not be the first good QB that could not get it done because of a lack of arm strength. Let’s have fun watching and hope Pruitt can hold ‘em all under 40.

        • All Mason did at the spring game was throw back shoulder. Not sure what you were watching or if you saw it. Mason is not going to beat teams with arm strength.

          That’s partially my point. We’ve been getting away with the back shoulder throw for a number of years now, and defenses are catching up to it. Alabama was waiting for it on the last play of the 2012 SECCG, which is why the play had no chance of success.

          If you think I was bashing Mason, then you need to read to bulk of my posts, and you shouldn’t have to go back too far.
          ~~~

          • That’s partially my point. We’ve been getting away with the back shoulder throw for a number of years now, and defenses are catching up to it. Alabama was waiting for it on the last play of the 2012 SECCG, which is why the play had no chance of success.

            Interesting… I seem to recall Murray embarrassed a couple of ‘Bama DBs with perfectly thrown back shoulder passes in that game.

            • YES. We’ve had great success with that throw. No telling how many big plays we’ve had with it. But everybody has caught onto it by now. And without the big zip, it’s not near as effective.

              Kirby isn’t my favorite DC, I’ve never wanted him at Georgia, but he ain’t completely stupid. He knew, like everybody else, where that ball was going on the last play of the SECCG. That’s why it was so well defended.
              ~~~

              • Dawgaholic

                Not sure about your analysis of the last play in 12 – looked like Mitchell was going to have a play on the ball if not batted. Back shoulder works against man regardless of arm strength as the receiver can turn late and/or box out. Back shoulder against zone or man-free better have some zip.

                Btw – Ivey, I know you’re a huge Mason supporter.

                • Btw – Ivey, I know you’re a huge Mason supporter.

                  Yeah, I just worry we’re going to get burned on some of these back-shoulder throws, at an inopportune time. I feel better about them when the ball has a lot of mustard on it.

                  FWIW, I thought Mitchell ran a poor route, didn’t drive his man deep enough, and inside enough, which gave the defender a good angle. And he didn’t get the separation he should have. Plus, of course, I thought the defender was looking for it.
                  ~~~

              • How do you “catch on” to defending a perfectly executed back shoulder throw?

                • By knowing it’s coming.
                  ~~~

                  • That’s deep. Totally useless as an explanation, but deep.

                    If you know it’s coming, what’s your coverage technique? How do you get between the receiver’s back shoulder and the sideline without tipping off the receiver and QB?

                    • You play the ball, not the receiver. How you get to it depends on any number of things. If there’s enough time (the ball doesn’t get there in a hurry) you could even cut the ball off.
                      ~~~

                    • Then that’s not a perfectly executed throw, is it?

                    • No, it wouldn’t be, I guess.

                      Perfect throws don’t happen that often. A perfect throw, with a perfectly executed route, normally can’t be stopped, if that’s what you’re getting at. But even then, an instinctive defender could make a successful play on the ball, though at great risk. It doesn’t happen often these days. Just too risky.

                      But making a play on a ball that isn’t perfectly thrown is something else entirely, and that’s what I was referring to. Some of those are very low risk situations, and should be played every time, IMO.

                      BTW, I am talking about defenders with great ball instinct, that know how to make a play on a ball, that have the ability to read the ball as soon as it leaves the QB’s hand. There aren’t that many of those these days. But most top defenses have some who are good enough to make plays on the ball.

                      FWIW, we haven’t had many good ones, and didn’t have any at all last year. Those pics we see of JHC/Trigga in the Auburn debacle (and we haven’t seen the last of them) are textbook examples of how NOT to play a ball.
                      ~~~

                    • What I’m getting at is your “catch on” comment – that somehow defenses have figured out a strategy to defend the back shoulder that they didn’t have before.

                      If all you’re saying is that a poorly thrown ball can be defended by a good DB, well, duh. Does that mean you think Murray grew less capable of making the back shoulder throw as the 2012-3 seasons progressed?

                    • All I was saying was defenses are now aware of our tendency to favor the back shoulder throw. DUH.
                      ~~~

  20. Rebar

    And if it is the year of the running back, we’ve got no worries.