Patrick Garbin sounds the alarm bell over the inexperienced offensive line:
Four years later entering 2012, Georgia’s offensive line is again, in a word, green… very green (if I could use two words).
The unit returns players with only 31 career starts: Kenarious Gates (12), Chris Burnette (12) and Dallas Lee (7). Thirty-one starts are remarkably low, so low in fact that entering last season, only 10 percent of all FBS teams(12 of 120) returned less than 34 career offensive line starts. Notably, of these 12 FBS teams, EIGHT would average less yards per rushing attempt in 2011 than they did the year before (which is what could be expected from a team with an inexperienced offensive line).
Last season, the Bulldogs averaged just under 4.0 yards per rushing attempt, which ranked a lowly 9th in the conference just ahead of the potent ground games of Kentucky (3.5), Ole Miss (3.4), and Tennessee’s (2.8). So, in keeping with the trend, Georgia’s running game could actually be worse than it was in 2011. Regardless, the Bulldogs have proven they can win games with their passing attack (if the offensive line isn’t allowing Aaron Murray to be constantly attacked/sacked) and a stout defense.
However, is it a mere coincidence that of last year’s 12 inexperienced-offensive-line FBS teams, only THREE achieved a better record in 2011 than they had in 2010? Is there some truth in the sayings an offense is only as good as its offensive line and games are won and lost in the trenches? If so, as was the case in 2008, the 2012 Bulldogs might not be nearly as good as most expect.
Yeah, I’m nervous. You’d be crazy not to be. But I wonder if we don’t put a little too much stock into this factor. First off, as Patrick notes, Georgia under Richt has had some success with green offensive lines (let’s tip our caps again to the ’03 squad, which made it to the SECCG despite giving up a whopping 47 sacks). And on the flip side, it’s not like the much ballyhooed, heavily experienced lines of ’09 and ’10 lived up to the hype.
I’ve learned to be a little skeptical about relying on this stat ever since this Wall Street Journal piece came out and at season’s end more teams from the inexperienced group finished ranked (including MNC Alabama) than did teams from the experienced group.
So it’s a situation which merits a careful eye – and remember that there’s a good chance a likely starter hasn’t even arrived on campus yet – but one for which it’s premature to throw in the towel already. Will Friend will get his chance to earn his paycheck.