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:
|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…