Great piece from the get go (you guys know I’m a sucker for puns, and the header is a good ‘un) about the Georgia running back situation by Matt Hinton.
This is a story about a star running back at Georgia, which means that it is also, on some intrinsic level, a story about Herschel Walker. It’s impossible to avoid: In his three years, Walker so thoroughly embodied the ideal college workhorse that in the three-plus decades since his last carry in a red-and-black uniform, his shadow over the position has only grown. At some point, possibly before he even left campus, that shadow became a permanent feature of the landscape, looming over aspiring recruits and proven commodities alike: The best of the post-Walker tailbacks in Athens include two consensus All-Americans, six first-round draft picks, and a future NFL MVP, all of whom register in the imagination as mere footnotes by comparison. No broad-shouldered, blue-chip prospect has ever been touted as The Next Rodney Hampton. No fan in the cheap seats has ever been moved by a great run to exclaim, “That kid looks like Tim Worley out there!” No TV producer has ever booked Garrison Hearst or Knowshon Moreno to grant his blessing to the latest heir apparent.
So the bar for what qualifies as a star running back at Georgia is relative, to put it mildly. And before we get around to parsing the bona fides of the current headliner, sophomore Nick Chubb, it has to be said that exultant expectations for UGA rushers over the past few years have tended to produce a lot of false prophets.
I’ll grant you that maybe Matt takes a little artistic license to make his point – I don’t think any of the Georgia faithful, at least when sober, saw Washaun Ealey as the next Herschel Walker – but there’s little question that in general we have a tendency to see if someone can step up and take a shot at filling the myth. Kinda like back in the days of my misspent youth when we wondered who would emerge as the next Beatles, I suppose.
The most interesting part of Matt’s piece is this chart…
Goodness, gracious. If you look up “workhorse” in the dictionary, Knowshon’s 2008 season is there. (Musa Smith’s 2002 effort is nothing to sneer at either.)
All of which makes what Chubb did last year that much more remarkable. And it’s a good example of how well Georgia has managed its running backs of late.
So how special can we expect Chubb’s 2015 season to be? Aside from managing the workload, there’s also an issue of strategy in play.
That may be the case, but even if Chubb and his high-ceiling cohorts are all they’re cracked up to be, the broader question still remains: In an era of efficient, up-tempo offenses and rapidly accelerating scoreboards, is it still possible for a great back, or a group of great backs, to serve as the centerpiece for a championship? On the one hand, college football is not yet “a passing league” in the sense that the NFL is: Although college offenses throw more often than in the past, they still tend to run more than they throw, and ground games in general are as productive as ever. Unlike in the pros, where individual backs have been steadily devalued as short-lived, situational cogs, the every-down workhorse remains a prized commodity in the college game. Still, it’s also been clear for a while that the days of college offenses hitching their wagons to a transcendent talent like Walker or Gurley or Chubb and riding him to a title are long gone unless that type of back is accompanied by a quarterback who can generate some semblance of balance.
Eh, maybe. Georgia, but for some unfortunate and untimely brain farts, came closer to pulling that off in 2014 than you’d think. And you’d have to think that with the change at quarterback and offensive coordinator, along with depth questions at wideout, the program is going to try to ride the Chubb train as far as it can.
If that works, then I think Matt is spot on with his conclusion.
Regardless of the final numbers, if under those circumstances Chubb is able to uphold his end of the bargain as the engine of a sustained title run, his place in the most exalted tier of Bulldog greats will be secure.
In other words, we’d be naming the next generation of black Labrador retrievers after him.