Seth Emerson does his usual level-headed analysis of Saturday’s game here, and there’s one thing in particular he brings up that is worthy of attention.
Something I think looms large that is starting to show: The blocking on the edges also isn’t there, and this is where Georgia misses Chris Conley and Michael Bennett. Yes, Malcolm Mitchell and other receivers will throw a good block, but Conley and Bennett were bigger receivers who did it consistently. Right now Georgia is depending on smaller guys – Mitchell is 6-1, Terry Godwin is 5-10 and Reggie Davis is a skinny 6-foot – to block on the outside.
Another reason for the run struggles: The lead blocking just isn’t quite what it could be. You see several plays where if a defender was blocked at the point of attack the running back could have a few extra yards and potentially get into the secondary. Instead, most of the time it’s Michel going into a mass of bodies, no surprise since the blocking in the box is basically five-on-nine.
I mentioned the first as a potential problem a couple of months ago (although many of you disagreed with me on it then) and it’s been apparent in the two losses. The second we may not have seen coming so much – let’s face it, last year defenses were loading the box and the line and fullbacks weren’t having the same degree of difficult clearing running room – but it’s there now, too.
Part of the problem may simply be that defenses are taking Georgia’s passing game as even less of a threat than last season. There’s really only one way to change that, and to date the results there have been spotty at best. Another part is the offense in the two losses has been asked to hold things together in the face of a tsunami of momentum for the opponent. It’s tough to find the motivation to run block when the other team is in the midst of a door-blowing scoring run.
If there is a bright side to this, it’s that despite the issue with blocking, Nick Chubb managed to average more than eight yards a carry before he got hurt and Sony Michel is averaging close to seven. Keith Marshall, who can expect more work going forward, has gained more than five and a half yards with each of his rushes. There is talent and it’s talent that’s been able to produce. It’s helped that the problem with blocking has been in getting push; it’s not as if the line is getting knocked on its collective ass. It’s up to Schottenheimer to design calls that take advantage of what is working so far. From there, he’s just got to hope for some better traction in the passing game to open things up more for Georgia’s run blocking.
It’s not a hopeless task. There’s too much talent for that to be the case. But it won’t be easy, either.