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.