In their latest podcast, Seth Emerson and Gentry Estes discuss how big a deal the return of Malcolm Mitchell for the 2015 season is for Georgia. Given the departures of Georgia’s most experienced receivers, they’re right. But Estes goes on to note something about Mitchell that made me think: this season, Mitchell has averaged 8.18 yards per catch. Compare that to his career stats in that department.
- 2014 – 8.18
- 2012 – 14.30
- 2011 – 14.78
Essentially, Malcolm Mitchell disappeared as a deep threat this season. And before you lay that on his recovery from injuries (and remember, he made some tough, tough catches this year), compare Georgia’s overall average this season to years past.
- 2014 – 11.82
- 2013 – 13.94
- 2012 – 15.71
- 2011 – 13.32
- 2010 – 14.45
- 2009 – 13.76
- 2008 – 14.67
That’s a period that covers four quarterbacks. This season was the lowest average Georgia posted over that seven-year term, and by a pretty wide margin. Whatever you want to blame that on, it’s pretty clear from the stats (and, not surprisingly, if you watched the games) that Georgia didn’t have as much of a deep passing game as we’ve been accustomed to seeing.
I’d argue that Bobo had a feel for that going into this season and planned accordingly by emphasizing completion percentage and ball control to make up for the lack of a deep threat. Is that a reflection of Mason’s strengths and weaknesses? If Bobo was doing his job, yes.
Whoever starts at quarterback in 2015 is going to bring a different skill set to the job than Mason brought this season. (I’m assuming for the sake of argument it’ll either be Ramsey or Park.) More arm strength, far less experience and a less experienced receiving corps to throw to is what we should expect. Also, you’d have to think that whoever steps up in the two-deep isn’t going to be as solid blocking downfield for the run game as Bennett and Conley have been. However, the offensive line, with four returning starters and what appeared to be some quality depth this year, ought to be a strength.
What does all of that add up to? Probably some hiccups, especially early, which translates into more turnovers and a lower completion percentage than we got in 2014. The question is, does Bobo return to the deep game to counterbalance that falloff?