How can you mend a broken running game?

As we sit here on the eve of the Tennessee game, with Kirby Smart crossing his fingers that Nick Chubb will be available to play, it’s hard to avoid wondering what the hell has happened to one area everyone thought would be one of Georgia’s strengths in 2016.

It’s not idle speculation, either.  Take a look at Georgia’s yards per rush average over the past four seasons:

  • 2012:  4.87 (3rd in the SEC)
  • 2013:  4.55 (11th in the SEC)
  • 2014:  6.04 (1st in the SEC)
  • 2015:  5.14 (2nd in the SEC)

This season?  Currently, the Georgia offense is averaging 4.55 ypc, which is good for eighth in the conference.  (It’s hard to believe, but, yes, there’s an area that’s actually declined from Schottenheimer’s year in control.)

It’s easy to start by blaming injuries — Chubb’s recovery and Michel’s accident obviously come to mind here — but let’s not forget that Chubb was hurt for much of last season and seemingly everyone was hurt in 2013.

Sacks, perhaps?  Well, maybe just a tad.  This season, Eason and Lambert have combined to lose 34 yards rushing in four games, which averages out to minus-8.5 yards per game.  The rushing averages for quarterbacks over those same previous four seasons look like this:

  • 2015:  minus-4
  • 2014:  +1.46
  • 2013:  +16 (Aaron Murray rushed for 186 yards that season, fifth best on the team.)
  • 2012:  minus-0.21

Seth Emerson suggests another factor.

But it’s hard to miss that the running game went smoother in Lambert’s one start, and has struggled since then. Eason has audibled a few more times each game, and the more comfortable he gets that’ll happen. I also noticed him pointing out the Mike linebacker more As I’ve said many times, I’ve yet to see anything to indicate that Eason won’t pick things up. He’s just not there yet.

Georgia isn’t making defenses pay for their alignments because Eason simply isn’t schooled enough to check his team into better plays to take advantage.  That’ll come, but it’s going to take time.

I just wish I could say the same thing about Georgia’s offensive line.  Matt Hinton isn’t helping.

The Bulldogs haven’t been hapless on the ground, by any means. But they haven’t blocked anything as well as they did that pair of touchdown runs in the opener, and they’ve often looked out of sync. Between the tackles, especially, they’ve come up mostly empty.

Formation-wise, first-year coordinator Jim Chaney has added a healthy dollop of spread sets on top of a traditional, two-back foundation, and attempting to run out of the former has been an exercise in frustration. Part of that has to do with Eason’s statuesque presence, which automatically rules out large swathes of any spread-to-run playbook — kid’s got an arm, but at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, he’s hardly a threat to keep the ball on a zone read (or any other designed run) and defenses don’t treat him like one.

More to the point, though, the front five has simply struggled to open lanes and allowed far too much traffic behind the line of scrimmage before the backs even have a chance to react.

There’s more than one reason for that, as Matt explains.

Sometimes the problem is as basic as a busted assignment — that’s what happened here, for example, when Georgia faced seven Missouri defenders in the box with only six blockers and simply neglected to block the Tigers’ best player, Charles Harris (No. 91 below, at right defensive end) on a straightforward off-tackle run by Chubb…

… But mental busts can be corrected. More often, and more concerning, is the frequency of blockers simply getting beaten at the point of attack. On this play, UGA wants to pull Wynn from his left guard spot to lead Sony Michel around the right side on a counter. The problem is that Missouri’s defensive end on the right side, Marcell Frazier (No. 55) beats tight end Jeb Blazevich off the snap and successfully caves him into the backfield, cutting off Wynn and clogging the intended running lane; Michel, one of the shiftiest open-field runners in the country, is forced to dodge his own linemen 2 yards behind the line of scrimmage before being swarmed over for no gain.

It’s a perfect storm:  the line is inconsistent, both physically and mentally, and the starting quarterback is both green and not a threat to run.  Georgia’s backs may be great — okay, they are great — but even the best running backs need some surrounding infrastructure to succeed.  As Hinton puts it,

Even if Chubb wakes up Saturday morning feeling 100 percent, though, it won’t mean anything against a nasty Volunteers front without a better push up front than he and the other backs have seen the past three weeks.

One way to do that with a largely immobile quarterback might be to emphasize what worked against UNC — old-school, downhill running behind a fullback or H-back — which also happens to be how Chubb came by most (though certainly not all) of his yardage in 2014 and ’15.

Running out of shotgun and spread sets often means more slowly developing runs and fewer opportunities for a powerful, one-cut runner like Chubb to build momentum and accelerate through a crease, especially when the defense is basically free to ignore the possibility that Eason might tuck and run with it himself.

But to a very large extent improvement is simply a matter of execution: No play will work if the blocking doesn’t come off.

Tomorrow sure would be a good time to start, fellas.


Filed under Georgia Football

64 responses to “How can you mend a broken running game?

  1. HVL Dawg

    Why does everyone ignore that Alabama is starting a true freshman quarterback but somehow we can’t? Is it because Jeb Blazovich sucks?

    Folks, it’s coaching.

    • Yeah, ignore those two offensive lines.

      • ASEF

        And ignore that the true freshmen is starting precisely because he’s already very good at the specific skill set that Hinton points out Eason lacks.

        64-102 passes, 727 yards 5 TDs, 1 pick
        45 rushes for 251, 3 TDs

        Team: 178 rushes for 985 yards.

        Hurts is 25% of their rushing offense because his attempts create space for their running backs in several ways.

        Anyone propose we give Eason 25% of the carries?

      • HVL Dawg


        • Biggus Rickus

          Yes, the team played like shit against Nicholls, which was a coaching issue. The offensive line is still not good.

        • Napoleon BonerFart

          Bluto didn’t argue that the line isn’t talented enough to push Nichols around. He simply acknowledged that they didn’t. Part of that is certainly coaching and part of that is execution by the players.

          I’m not in the camp that believes that Richt committed coaching malpractice by failing to stock the OL with 5 star talent. But I will acknowledge that there is a talent discrepancy between the lines of Bama and UGA.

    • JCDAWG83

      Yeah, our sucky offensive line and receivers who can’t catch the ball have nothing to do with it.

    • Normaltown Mike

      and to think these idiot coaches somehow beat your beloved Tarheels…the horror…the horror…

      • HVL Dawg

        You’ve got a good memory Mike. I raise my glass to you.

        Yes. Where ever my daughter goes to school is my beloved school.

    • Alabama on offense: Top-10 pick at LT (Jr), LG: Soph, C: rs JR, RG: rs Soph, RT fresh.

      So it has one of the best LT in the game and two other starters with at least 3 years in the program plus another who’s in his second year. Then it has one of the best WRs in the game (Ridley) to go along with one of the best WRs in the SEC (Stewart). They also have one of the best 5 TEs in the game in Howard.

      Alabama on defense: starts 6 seniors on defense. It starts 2 third-year players (1 rs Soph and 1 juniors) and 3 true sophomores (all are 5* players).

      Trying to compare Georgia to Alabama is laughable. UGA is so far behind Alabama and the fans have to accept that. It’s going to take 3 years to get close to what Kirby wants. That doesn’t excuse 45-0, however. That’s inexcusable. And I think when a team with as much talent as Georgia has gets beat that badly, there’s a buy-in problem from some players.

      But if you want to argue it’s coaching vs talent, don’t use Alabama as your guide.

    • PTC DAWG


    • Brandon

      FYI… we aren’t Alabama.

  2. JasonC

    Try the Pistol?

    • How would that help (he asked non-snarkily)?

      • JasonC

        Try anything?
        Just kidding. Back when Bobo was here, I think he ran some pistol because it gives somewhat of a shotgun look, but with more traditional running lanes. Maybe that would help give Eason a better feel for what he’s used to and Chubb more what he succeeds at. Just a thought. I think better OL play is the most important thing and then the other things noted in the article.

        • Russ

          Yeah, seems like the pistol might put the pass option out there a little more in the DC’s mind, causing them to spread out a little. It also seems like it would make it easier for Chubb and the other backs to see the line (and breakdowns) easier, and maybe have a better chance at avoiding them.

          Our best runs this season seem to come on the outside. If we’re going to line up in the I, then use the toss sweep more often. If we run out of the pistol, put Chubb and Michel back there at the same time (Michel in the slot).

          I agree with JasonC, try anything/something new. 55 passes is certainly trying something, but show some similar creativity with the running game and maybe Eason only has to throw 45 passes.

          • ASEF

            Problem: the Pistol was built by a coach who was trying to figure out how to best utlize Colin Kaepernick. It works best when when the QB is a threat to run, in part because it sets up read-options and RPOs going either direction. The defense has a lot of pre- and post-snap variables to account for.

            If you’re running a pistol without those skill sets in the QB, then the number of things the defense has to account for drop considerably.

            • Snoop Dawgy Dawg

              Definitely true. We have been running the pistol some, which, for any unsure, is just a modified version of the shotgun, with the running back set behind the QB, allowing, as was said, more power running options, while utilizing a shotgun type formation.

              I saw it more against UNC than I’ve seen since. I thought it was smart then, and perhaps it’s been done since, but my impression from the last 2 games was that we either than 3 TE, I formation, or a 3 or 4 WR Shotgun formation, which really seemed to telegraph run vs pass.

              I’ve been surprised that we haven’t thrown to tight ends more from the 3 TE sets, as at least 2 of them run like wide receivers. I’m surprised we haven’t run more out of the 3 or 4 wides, as that “ought” to give Chubb/Michel a better chance to see the defenders and pick their spots, given the sieve like OLine.

              that being said, the OL is getting demolished, so not sure anything fixes that.

              Bobo ran a ton of Pistol his last 2 years, without any kind of a running threat, with quite a bit of success.

              from my couch, it looks like our WRs are best suited for fly routes or slants. Eason seems to really connect on the slants, but is not stepping into the deep ball, so he’s not as accurate as he could be(Stafford was and is the same way at times on those throws with very similar OLs). Seems we ought to be wearing out the short and intermediate sidelines with passes built off those slants and crossing routes, which are throws eason can make in his sleep. Of course, if I can see it, I’m sure the offensive brain trust sees it, and there’s likely a really good reason why they aren’t doing it, which is why I am analyzing from my couch.

            • Uglydawg

              Run it with Sony taking the snap and Eason as a set back who can throw off the hand off.

      • Otto

        The Fr QB never played under Center so it puts him in a position that is more natural to him but also puts the RB in a better place to start his run than shotgun.

    • Normaltown Mike

      I think Smart IS trying the Pistol approach

    • The Quincy Carter of Accountants

      Half way through the Ole Miss game I considered the pistol.

  3. We spend a lot of time talking about our OTs, but in my dream scenario, a better center than Kublano comes off of the bench Saturday.

    • We can’t drive block with Kublanow, but I’m not sure there’s another option right now. Again, it’s all smoke and mirrors this year (and probably next) until the personnel fits.

    • I wish we could move him and Pike back to guard a la 2014. Kick wynn out to LT. Catalina is what he is, but he’s all we have at RT. I guess the problem is we don’t have anyone else that can survive at center.

  4. Evidently Normaltown

    Anybody else feel like Eason’s handoffs look super clunky? Not saying that’s a cause but it can’t help.

  5. Scorpio Jones, III

    So, Bluto, what this post says to me is that sometime, maybe even sometime soon we could begin to suffer less. Is that right?

    But, like, is it ok to watch Tech and da U tamarra? And, like, you know, ah be a Caines fan for a little while? Just cause its Tech, of course?

    And if I should happen to stumble across Tech and Miami…should I wear one of those old hats, if I was inclined to pull for Miami, which I might, since, after all, it is Tech?

    • We’ll have some of our fans actually pull for tech tomorrow. I hate to say that but it’s the truth.

      • Biggus Rickus

        As someone who actually does hope Richt succeeds, because I like him, I can say that some Georgia fans have made holding onto that position difficult. The next year or two are going to be annoying times to be a Georgia fan. It may last longer if Smart tuns out to be a bust.

        • Can’t disagree with you on either side of that … We have a bunch of fans who are darn annoying. I hope he’s successful at the U for the same reason (I like the guy and appreciate what he did at Georgia). As I mentioned yesterday, it certainly doesn’t look like he & the Water Girl have looked back … it’s time for all of us to look forward as well.

        • Scorpio Jones, III

          Rick…I understand your difficulty, but all the polls indicate its ok to respect Mark Richt and still be a true Dawg. How can any rational person not respect Richt and wish him well? I hope I feel that deep sense of respect for Kirby, too although they seem to be two very different people…people.

          We all gotta just hang in there…what choice do we have…and if me, or you or anybody else gets a couple minutes of whoopee by watching Miamuh wack the shit outa Tech…then by God, sir, Whoopeee.

          I got too much trouble with hats and Kharma to worry about folks who don’t want to admit they hope Mark Richt does well and lives a long happy life in Miami.


    How can a loser ever win?

  7. Rocket Dawg

    I don’t agree with running out of the I with a fullback and a TE being the best way to establish the run game. When you line up in that formation and have WR that are no threat to get loose downfield (or hell catch the ball half the time) then the safeties walk down and you have 9 vs 7 in the box, not a fair fight. At least by going 3 or 4 wide you get a 5 on 6 or 5 on 7 scenario in the box with easier throwing lanes for Eason due to the defense being spread out. The rushers have to declare earlier which will let him know where the pressure is coming from. Weak C and G play makes running anything between the tackles an exercise in futility.

  8. Maybe a dingo ate our OL (aka W Cobb Dawg)

    I get we don’t have the talent level we’d like. But frankly, Pittman’s got to do a better job with what he’s got to work with. The guy has been around for a long time. I strongly doubt this is the least talented OL he’s ever had. He’s not showing me much as a position coach so far. Doesn’t even look like an upgrade from Sale. And I’m really disappointed to have to say that.

  9. Teams are truly selling out to stop the run and we don’t have much of a passing game to stop that or provide balance. Our best guards are stuck at center and tackle.

  10. Rick

    Why is it odd that there is a statistical area that has decreased from Schotty? Is there one that hasn’t?

    Schotty was mediocre, Chaney is awful. There is a big difference.

    • Uglydawg

      Schotty was mediocre? Then Bobo was all World.

      • When Bobo headed to Fort Collins, he was widely recognized as one of the best offensive coordinators and QB coaches in the college game.

      • Rick

        More or less. Bobo was borderline elite. #1 offense in the nation in 2012, and routinely top 15. So yeah, Schotty isn’t as good and looks even worse with Lambert (who was nevertheless light years better statistically under Schotty than before or since).

        We lost all perspective. So when Chaney is hired, we think he can’t be any worse. Learning is fun.

  11. Jared S.

    Good gravy. If Lambert starting means Chubb getting 200+ yards, start him against Tennessee, please.


  12. DawgByte

    “Perfect Storm”… I’ve been using that phrase since the Nicholls game. The perfect storm we find ourselves in on offense is due to a confluence things hitting the team all at once. Our OL does not deploy a true SEC caliber OT. The interior of the line is too SMALL, which is why we’re seeing all the LOS penetration, Blazevich is getting worked on a regular basis, we’re starting a true freshman QB with no running threat, the WRs are struggling to catch the ball, get separation and block on the perimeter. Add to that formations that telegraph whether we’re running or passing and there should be no mystery as to why we’re struggling.
    FWIW, all of those factors will not magically disappear tomorrow or the next week. Hold your jocks folks, because we’re in a rebuilding year and what we’re seeing happens in a rebuilding year and if you’re expecting the OL to be significantly better next year – THINK AGAIN!

    • Jared S.

      Bama ….er… I mean, ROME wasn’t built in a day!!!

      • Yep. It is likely going to be a long year, but I already felt this year was going to suck while I was watching last season. I am no great pronosticator, but I thought anyone with eyes could scan the depth chart and read the tea leaves. I feel that is why B-M decided to cut their losses when they did. Under Richt we were looking at another 2010, or worse, and another 3 year plan to work with. They must have thought it was just as well to roll the dice on a new face and a different 3 year plan since losing was likely anyway. This is just my opinion. Like you said, hold on to your jocks everybody. With that in mind I am just hoping to see a team that looks strong and disiplined to close out the year, and a good enough record that recruiting does not totally tank. 8-9 wins should be very attainable if Kirby gets things going the way a good coach should.

    • Hardcoredawg 93

      Kudos for finally realizing recruiting has not been all that great.

  13. AthensHomerDawg

    Bee Gees? Bluto.