Yes, but is it good for the quarterbacks?

Smart opened up a good deal about the status of Georgia’s running backs yesterday.  More than anything, it sounds like a race against time for the opener.

Returning from a broken forearm usually takes eight to 10 weeks after surgery depending on whether he broke one or two bones, according to orthopedic surgeon Barry Boden of The Orthopedic Center in Rockville, Md.

Michel playing in the opener “will be close,” according to Boden. That will depend on what x-rays revealed, but also depends on a follow-up x-ray four weeks later.

“A lot of the injury is how does the muscle repair itself,” Smart said.

Smart said Chubb, who tore three knee ligaments last October against Tennessee, will be tested most the first time he does “full-live contact,” Smart said.

An injury like Chubb’s usually has a nine to 12 month recovery, but players don’t always return to 100 percent.

When camp begins, Chubb “will do pretty much everything,” Smart said. “He’ll do drills. The thud work.”

Smart said Chubb won’t be able to do everything right away when it comes to being tackled in a scrimmage.

“The psychological factor of him taking the first hits and going through the tackling is going to be a big part of it,” Smart said. “We’ve got people working on him with that aspect.”

What’s interesting is Michel’s more recent injury seems to have introduced a little hesitancy into what has been up until this week a growing tide of confidence in Chubb’s recovery in time for the start of the 2016 season.  Here’s Andy Staples and Zac Ellis, as an example of that.

What’s even more interesting is how the discussion of Chubb’s and Michel’s recoveries leads into speculation about how that affects Georgia’s quarterback battle.  Staples and Ellis talk about that.  Groo suggests that the less likely the top two tailbacks are to play, the more that points to a true freshman quarterback playing.

The less likely Chubb and Michel can play a significant role in the opener, the more likely we are to see Eason. Lost production from the backfield will have to come from the passing game, and I think we’ll need more than we saw towards the end of 2015. Kirby Smart, as a new coach, has the goodwill to take that kind of risk in the opener, and he’ll then have two winnable games to prepare the offense for what could be the toughest stretch of the season.

I grant you that Groo’s point about Smart being able to spend some goodwill in the opener has validity, but there may be other factors in play in the decision about who starts against North Carolina.  For one thing, at least if we’re to take Smart at his word, the timing may not be convenient.

Smart said Lambert, Ramsey and Eason were “pretty balanced in the reps they took,” in the spring.

“The options we’re going to weigh are going to be what gives us the best chance to win,” Smart said.

He noted the distinction that he didn’t say simply “we’re going to play the best player. We’re going to play the best player that gives us the best opportunity to win football games. And I don’t know who that is. If I knew, I promise you, I would tell you. I would give you the information. But I don’t know that.”

Smart said he will sit down with offensive coordinator Jim Chaney during preseason practices to make the big decision.

“We’ll make that decision hopefully sooner than later,” he said.

I don’t doubt that they’d prefer to settle on a choice as soon as is practical.  As we saw last season, August reps are valuable, especially when you’ve got a new offensive coordinator installing his system.  In this specific case, that may be even more so.  There’s going to be considerable uncertainty with the running back rotation, with a strong likelihood that at least one true freshman will garner playing time.  If you’re Chaney, do you want to compound that with a quarterback rotation that goes all the way into the season opener (and perhaps beyond)?

And if you’re going to settle on a starting quarterback early enough in August to gain some stability, how are you going to be able to judge then what Chubb and Michel will be able to contribute in two or three weeks?

Now Smart, to his credit, claims that’s not how he’ll assess things.

“Well, you say if you don’t have either back, which I certainly hope that’s not the case, does it become a situation where you’ve got to go throw the ball better? We’ve got to go look at the long term, not just the first game. There’s more to this season than the first game. We’re not putting all of our eggs in the first game basket. We’ve got to figure out who’s going to be our best leader and give us the best opportunity to win. I don’t think that’s dictated by who the back is or if there’s a back healthy or if there’s two backs healthy.”

But I’m not sure what “the long term” means, exactly.  Is he playing to win the division this season?  Or is he simply using the season as a crucible to determine what talent he’ll build his program around for the next?  The answer to those questions strikes me as having a much bigger impact on his decision than how many snaps Chubb will take in the Dome.

28 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

28 responses to “Yes, but is it good for the quarterbacks?

  1. Hogbody Spradlin

    Vocabulary Police: the best player “who” gives us the best opportunity to win football games.

  2. stoopnagle

    UNC game doesn’t matter in the long or short term really. That game at Missouri matters though and we’ve taken them lightly before.

    • Jared S.

      Agreed. We obviously don’t need UNC to get to Atlanta at the end of the season. And even though it would make everyone happy to beat the stuffings out of the Tar Heels on Septemeber 3rd, I think Smart is happy not pushing things and losing that game if need be in order to ensure his team is in tip top shape for his SEC games.

      • Otto

        An article above accuses UGA of trying to be Bama east, and if that is so UGA would likely need UNC to get to the Dome in January but not Mizzou.

  3. Skeptic Dawg

    I do not expect Chubb to play in the Dome vs UNC. As for Michel, I believe that he will play a limited role in the opener. Eason should be the starter from day one in my opinion. Yes, he will struggle as all freshmen do at times with coverages, decision making and routes. However, what we are looking for is progression from this young QB and hopefully just enough stellar plays to outweigh the negatives. All of which leads to the new staff developing the talent on hand and creating game plans from week to week that will allow this group to be successful. The coaches need a W week 1 to prove to the players that what they are preaching actually works. Confidence is so important in college football and a win in the Dome will provide that to the players and hopefully build momentum fir the early part of the season.

    • RandallPinkFloyd

      Given all the rumors and talk of his progression, I don’t see how Chubb doesn’t play in the Dome. I doubt he totes it 15-20 times, but I don’t see how he doesn’t get some carries.

      • Skeptic Dawg

        RandallPinkFloyd (by the way, one of the great handles on this site by the way! A great tribute to a great movie.)…I don’t believe Chubb will play in the Dome due to the severity of his injury. Is it possible? Sure it is. Is it likely? No, not likely at all in my opinion. Actually, I don’t expect Chubb to be back until the midpoint of the season. As far as the rumors are concerned, I do not believe them. When Chubb is forced to stick his foot in the ground to cut and then gets hit, that is when I will believe he is progressing and ready to play.

        • RandallPinkFloyd

          Thanks, man! One of my favorite characters from an absolute classic.

          As for Chubb. I guess time will tell. We’ll certainly have a better idea in a month. I sure hope you’re wrong, though!

  4. The other Doug

    “When camp begins, Chubb “will do pretty much everything,” Smart said. “He’ll do drills. The thud work.”

    Smart said Chubb won’t be able to do everything right away when it comes to being tackled in a scrimmage.

    “The psychological factor of him taking the first hits and going through the tackling is going to be a big part of it,” Smart said. “We’ve got people working on him with that aspect.””

    Sounds like Chubb’s knee will be fully healed by the start of practice, but the staff knows it will take awhile for him to trust it while being tackled.

    As for the QB, if our running game is lacking talent, then I think it’s Lambert. Smart and Chaney will play it safe and try to grind out the win by focusing on field position. Smart doesn’t want to put ta lot of pressure on the freshman, and starting him in the opener with no Chubb or Michel would put the game on his shoulders.

  5. SCDawg

    I don’t know. I think I would prefer to have veteran RB’s like Chubb or Michel picking up that blitzing LB or safety. New guys don’t tend to be very good at that in their first game, or even their first seasons. And as a DC, I am going to have a lot of blitz packages ready for UGA because: (1) Lambert has proven he’s not good at multi-tasking; (2) Ramsey just chucks it all over the field anyways; (3) Eason has absolutely no game experience; and (4) are we sure we have decent tackles?

    Under Richt, I think it would be much less likely for us to start Eason for that reason. Who knows with Kirby. New HC, new OC, new QB coach.

    • Otto

      Richt started Murray early, and progressed Stafford rapidly. I think Richt/Bobo would start Eason quickly especially if Ramsey didn’t work out last year.

      • BABaracus

        Murray redshirted his first year, and then his first year as starter the other candidates were another redshirt frosh (Mett — for spring, anyway), and a true frosh (Mason).

        Stafford played from game 1 but didn’t take over as starter full time until several games into the season. He played most of the SCe game, but that was only after Joe T got hurt.

        I think the most likely scenario is Lambert starts, but Eason gets some reps in game 1. At some point in the season Eason will take over, but I doubt it will be from the start.

        • Reinmart

          I agree and I really don’t get the insistence that Eason MUST start game 1. This kid has a mountain to climb coming from a high school offense.

    • Otto

      Also with young RB I agree you don’t want to trust them picking up a blitzing LB. UNC’s run defense was porous and their front 7 is inexperienced. I would trust young RBs to do what they know and that is run the ball.

    • W Cobb Dawg

      “…I would prefer to have veteran RB’s like Chubb or Michel picking up that blitzing LB or safety. New guys don’t tend to be very good at that in their first game, or even their first seasons.”

      I agree with you to a point, but our starting FB Christian Payne is returning. I’d argue picking up blitzes & blocking is his reason for being. And I’m not sure Lambert is the best of our 3 QBs when it comes to pocket presence, scrambling ability, and quick release when there’s pressure – blitz or no blitz.

  6. lakedawg

    I believe the Senator could get a hundred yards against that porous NC defense with Derek playing QB.

  7. sectionzalum

    would be nice to let Eason get some in-game successes without saddling him with the burden of carrying the whole offense.

  8. Cojones

    Doesn’t the wish to play Jacob run parallel to the wish to get Kirby to UGA? All the positives created by any other QB is ignored in many fan’s minds while making way for the new hero. Well, the coaches aren’t going to look at it that way and the best chance scenario hasn’t played out fully in their minds when considering everything called Offense players and each man’s contribution within it.

    Dependency upon one running back or the other to make the O go is silly in most coach’s mind. While you want your greatest in there, you don’t want to force the tune and screw your season. Lot’sa stuff is going to happen in the next month that will shape that picture more and the final honing will be the last two weeks of practice. I predict by then that they will have made up their minds in order to get starters into plenty of reps before kickoff and will have made a decision as to QB, RB and blockers two weeks before kickoff.

  9. Whether Michel or Chubb play or not, I think it’s safe to say we will be seeing a lot of some other back. Who is the third string? Is it Holyfield? Douglas?

    • RugbyDawg79

      Douglas has proven that he is good in pass protection, I think that plays into the decision.

  10. SemperFiDawg

    Can we have some more tea leaves that we can use to interpret these with. Thank You

  11. Gravidy

    I’ve been hoping Smart takes the “long term” approach all along. If losing the UNC game means having a better chance at winning an SEC game they might otherwise lose, sign me up. And if losing a couple of extra games overall this season means having a better chance at having a legitimate conference title contender in the next year or two, you can sign me up for that as well. I view this year is a honeymoon year for Smart. I hope he uses it wisely.

  12. Dylan Dreyer's Booty

    I think the best thing to take away from this is that whether we have a stud running back in Chubb or Michel and regardless of who plays QB, the coaching staff just needs to use all the tools in their tool box. And they have tools: good TEs, multi-talented vets like Godwin and McKenzie, multi-talented new comer in Mecole, Douglas may not be Chubb or Michel in speed, but he can run up the middle and he can pick up a blitz, who knows how good Holyfield can be? My point is that it isn’t as if we don’t have some players.

    I’d like to have Chubb and Michel healthy form the git-go, but we can win without him because we are a team. Last year it seemed like the air got let out of the balloon the minute Chubb went down. In retrospect, I am beginning to think some of that blame lies with the coaches because it doesn’t seem like they made any adjustments; it was like they had a plan for when Chubb was healthy and then when he wasn’t they did not develop an alternate plan, or better yet, have one in reserve to start with. Lambert set a passing record in the SC game, but I bet about half the passes he completed went to TEs, including Rome, Harris and Blazevich. What happened to that? I hope and trust that Coach Chaney isn’t going to be tunneled in on only one way of skinning a cat.

  13. Cosmic Dawg

    My prediction is Lambert starts NC game and coaches give Eason 3-4 series against McNicolls State, and Eason keeps getting 2-3 series every game afterward, but Lambert surprises us and holds onto the job.

    Lambert may be pissed at everybody ragging him out and improve on what was a mediocre but not disastrous year in 2015.

    • Gravidy

      When I read your first sentence, I initially thought “NC” stood for “National Championship”, but then I recovered…🙂

    • Cojones

      Good prediction. Pragmatism and a-good-guy-who’s-been-jerked-around syndrome to promote passion. Nice.

  14. Pooch Kick

    I’m extending enough of my good will to allow Kirby to start Skinny and play him 13 games and never have see two “other guys” again

  15. Pooch Kick

    since neither of the two “other guys” have instilled Kirby with confidence that he can name them as a starter, I extend my own goodwill to him for the entire season to just start the kid and play ball.