How green was our offensive line.

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, greenvery 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.

27 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

27 responses to “How green was our offensive line.

  1. Beard Dawg

    And as we’ve all seen, If there is going to be an exception to any stat line, the Dawgs are gonna be it.

    • Governor Milledge

      We heard the exact opposite last year from Phil Steele et al, how we were returning the most (or 2nd most?) experienced line in CFB. We also had the heaviest line across the board in ALL of football, period. Yet we all saw our product last year

      I agree, the Dawgs are pretty consistently the exception to the rule on O-Line play, whichever way that rule of thumb may happen to cut

      • Bevo

        “And on the flip side, it’s not like the much ballyhooed, heavily experienced lines of ’09 and ’10 lived up to the hype.”

        Agreed. One fo the flaws with using combined starts as a measurement is that it doesn’t consider an offensive line group with low talent to begin with.

  2. Orl Dawg

    The O-line just needs to be adequate. The Dawgs have an experienced QB, good group of RB’s, and a solid group of WR’s & TE’s. So, the offense should be alanced enough to keep the defense guessing. Defense wins in the SEC; and the Dawgs should have a nasty D this year. Barring a bunch of key injuries, this should be a great year!!!

  3. HK

    If you look back at a year and you had a great o-line, you probably had a great season. If it looks like you have a great line or a shaky one going into next year, it doesn’t really ever seem to mean anything at all. It seems like it is a total toss up on the preseason predictions when it comes to the offensive line; more so than any other position.

  4. Will Trane

    After three months with not one day off and 80 plus hours over a 7 day period in that stretch, it is good to see what is happening in the world of Dawg blogs.
    Not sure how green an Oline is based on starts. There is some for sure. Hard to beat game experience and playing across from some quality players. Perhaps, talent, S&C, Will Friend, and schemes will compensate for that shortcoming. It would appear there is more depth, more speed, and more strength along the line. Plus they have someting they have not had in a long time…RBs and there is some depth there. Playing 5 guys for game after game is not good.
    Why do you let Pazzalone go a complete game with a lead. Then run him in against Furman. Plus he was under the weather, but the coach did not know. He is a starter for the Florida weekend series. Understand that is long time between starts, but why not let him throw on the side rather than a game. Perno is a questionalbe coach. He does not know how to handle a staff. That has always been his problem, but no AD at UGA has figured that out. McGarity there is a very good coach on the staff at South Carolina.

    • studawg

      Just what in the hell are you talking about?

    • Normaltown Mike

      “but no AD at UGA has figured that out”

      I dunno Will. Vince tried really really really hard to hire a proven coach when Polk left and after several fruitless attempts he settled on Perno. To be honest, I’m shocked at the success we’ve had to date.

  5. RynoRedhawk

    The article lists some very important stats but it fails to consider that the players starting on the line in 2012 might simply be better than those in 2011.

    Two years of the new S&C program has to mean something to the starters this year (Theus excluded).

  6. GreasedStar

    Richt hasn’t handled expectations well in past at UGA.

    Each of the 4 times we’ve finished 1st in East, we won less games the next year:
    13 wins in 2002 to 11 wins in 2003
    11 wins in 2003 to 10 in 2004
    10 wins in 2005 to 9 in 2006
    11 wins in 2007 to 10 wins in 2008

    Besides the 33% chance Garbin gave us with an inexperienced o-line, combined with how Richt responds to finishing 1st in East the next season with at least 1 more loss, odds are not strong to win 11 games or more. But pretty good chance won’t fall below 9 wins.

  7. Joe Shmoe

    I’m sorry GreasedStar, but using a view that’s as high-level as wins seems like a really poor predictor. You really need to look at the deails. For instance, in 2006 we didn’t have an experienced QB to step in for Shockley (much more important to the success of our offense and team overall than o-line; that isn’t the case this year as we have Murray who will be a 3rd year starter). In 2008, our defense was beginning its precipitous decline under Martinez (in the three losses, the defense gave up 41 to AL, 49 to FL, and 45 to GT). Once again, this is not a problem for us this year as our defense should be even better than last season.

  8. BulldogBen

    This posting is what my worst nightmares are made of.

  9. GreasedStar

    This pattern during Richt’s UGA years (finishing 1st in East followed by 1-2 wins less next season) has been more reliable than Garbin’s at predicting the number of wins, 1-2 less wins than previous season.

    In fact, so far, it has never been wrong.

    • RandallPinkFloyd

      Dynamite analysis, GreasedStar. I guess we should go ahead and give up on the upcoming season then. We’ll look to win the east in 2013 when we’re not coming off a division champship the year before.

      Every year that Kentucky has won a national championship in basketball, the Yankees have won the world series in that same year. So, that means it HAS to happen, right?

      • King Jericho

        It’s statistically guaranteed.

        • adam

          Correlation does not imply causation.

          • Macallanlover

            Don’t tell that to the health community. They make total asses of themselves linking diseases/cures to statistical correlations. We spin in circles about what causes cancer and other diseases, then run billions of dollars in ads touting cures that often contradicts each other. You can get dizzy from the conflicting opinions on diets, cures, and pharmaceutical answers. What ever happened to saying “we don’t have all the answers, and there are no absolutes or guarantees. I have heard of patients having success with________.” Scientists used to have the final say, now even they are willing to “bend data” for some agenda, be it financial or political.

  10. IveyLeaguer

    While it’s true there has only been one really good OL under Richt (2002, and even they had to develop as the season went along), and the OL has never been on track under Richt, I now have high hopes that it’s finally getting on track.

    Further, I think this OL has a very good chance to be effective. Lots of people who know me are stunned, as this is the first year, under Richt, that I’ve felt this way.
    ~~~

    • Bevo

      I agree that our OLs under Richt have almost never been up to par. I also agree that we might finally be getting the OL on track. But one of the problems is that — even if we are — it’s going to take a while.

      OL and QB are probably the slowest developing positions on the field.

      Theus might become a star at UGA but if we’re depending on a true freshmen LT to shore up the line early in the season, we’ll have issues…

  11. shane#1

    In 2007 I was shocked by how well the line performed with so many freshmen. ‘Nando and the big cheese should get a lot of credit for that. I had doubts about the line in 2008 and was taken to task in the AJC blogs for those doubts. I thought the line was too young especially with a true freshman at center. In 2009 there were problems with injuries and at QB. 2010 and 2011 were enigmas to me. IMO, it’s anyone’s guess how the O line will play this fall.

  12. Connor

    I think we’re probably right to be concerned about the O-Line. My perception is that with the exception of 2003, good Georgia teams have had good line play and disappointing UGA teams have had bad line play. I guess you could even chalk up 03 as disappointing considering where the program was, but winning the division and having 2 of 3 losses coming against the National Champs is not that bad.
    However, I don’t think the experience thing has as much to do with the quality of the O-Line as that article would like to suggest. I distinctly remember how huge a question mark it was in 2007, and then it turned out that Sturdivant and Boling were great as freshman and by the end of the year we were mauling people. Flip to 2010, everyone in the world back, strength of the team, Murray just needs to manage the game… not so much.
    The O-Line is a very legitimate concern; I just don’t think it’s terribly predictable.

    • Speaking of 2003: if Billy Bennett doesn’t whiff in Baton Rouge, that’s a very, very different season.

      • JunkYard Dawg '00

        agreed. That was a hard fought and frustrating game, although the 90 yard screen pass in the waning minutes to Tyson Browning (had to look that name up), was a great moment. I prefer to look at Billy Bennett as one of the most clutch FG kickers we have had in the modern era. DGD. Although, why he never at least tried to go pro was beyond me.

        • Macallanlover

          I think he was a victim of the tee that was allowed in college. Might be wrong about that but CFB changed the rule about that period of time making kickers in college kick FGs and XPTs without a tee.

      • sUGArdaddy

        If D. Gary can catch in baton rouge it’s a different story. If we could cover a kickoff in baton rouge it’s a different story. Strangely, before 2007, I thought it was richt’s best team.

  13. Mr. Georgia Football Returns

    How green was our offensive line.

    Green enough to be less than 4 ypg rushing against SEC competition for the senventh straight year!

  14. Cojones

    My concerns end up with the RBs. Having to crash the line for a few yards can get old if a good hole doesn’t appear very often. I think that Richt and Bobo are aware of that and that’s why we will see “Boo” and “Fo” getting good playing time. They crash the line, soften it up and enhance the speedy runner’s chances of getting a hole and remaining healthy. Running plays will, by and large, get boring until Crowell goes outside and/or finds holes.