Jeb Blazevich searched his memory, but he couldn’t quite remember when and how he heard the news two years ago. Yes, his offensive coordinator leaving was a big deal, but at the time it didn’t seem like a seismic, far-reaching event. Georgia was coming off another record-setting offensive year, there was talent all around, and even Mike Bobo told everyone on the way out that his team would be just fine.
There was no reason for Blazevich and other Georgia players to think anything else.
“They said we had the best offense in Georgia history my freshman year,” recalled Blazevich, now a junior tight end, on a year when Georgia scored the most points in school history. “I said, well shoot we’ll break it again next year.”
“It’s interesting how naïve I was, I guess,” he said.
The struggles since then of Georgia’s once-mighty offense have cost one head coach his job, resulted in wholesale turnover on the offensive coaching staff, and generally been a source of constant consternation among the fan base.
If Georgia doesn’t score 40 points in Friday’s Liberty Bowl, it will be the first season in 16 years that the Bulldogs haven’t reached 40 in a single game. After setting records in Bobo’s final few seasons, the numbers have cratered the past two years under Brian Schottenheimer and Jim Chaney: The Bulldogs enter the bowl game ranked 89th nationally in total offense and 104th in scoring, and will need to score 40 points to avoid the lowest scoring output for a Georgia team since the schedule expanded to 12 games.
Now I’m sad.
Seth Emerson does a good job of cataloguing the reasons for Georgia’s offensive decline. Two of those in particular caught my eye.
One is the blocking scheme, which we’ve discussed before. There has been a change of approach from Sale to Pittman.
Sam Pittman, the respected line coach hired by Smart, instituted a scheme predicated on blockers moving forward. Rob Sale, the line coach last year, focused more on a “lateral” technique, according to lineman Dyshon Sims.
“It’s the same concept, but every position coach teaches it different,” said Sims, a junior this year. “And I think as you happen to do the lateral stuff last year and then trying to transform it into going straight downhill took some time for us getting some used to. But I think now that we’re comfortable with that scheme it’s going to be a lot better.”
Sims was asked what the biggest challenge was with the change.
“Just not getting into the old system anymore,” he said. Because you train yourself into trying to do that for so long, for over a year, and then you have to change everything, pretty much. So sometimes you can find yourself going into the old stuff a lot.”
Brandon Kublanow, a starter the past three years, also acknowledged that you sometimes “fall back on habits”, but you have to use practice to avoid that.
“I think every offensive line coach will tell you they have their own style, what kind of footwork they want, what kind of steps they want, how far the steps will be,” Kublanow said. “So everyone’s different. New year, new coach, so a lot of different things.”
Old habits die hard. (Although that doesn’t explain Catalina’s struggles.)
Two, transitions have been a way of life for three seasons now.
There’s a reason that Blazevich, Chubb and the other soon-to-be seniors are looking forward to next year: Continuity.
“This’ll be the first time I had a strength coach and offensive coordinator both coming back,” Blazevich said. “So just to have that consistency. I mean, I don’t even know what it’s like. Just to take that next step, because everything’s always been intro.”
Not only have there been three coordinators the past three years – four if you count John Lilly’s successful play-calling stints in the two bowls – but there have been three offensive line coaches, three running backs coaches, three receivers coaches, and three strength and conditioning coordiantors.
“The consistency of ‘This is how it’s going to be, this is how it was, now everybody’s on board and everybody knows,’” Blazevich said. “It’s not, ‘Oh we need to figure out this offense, we need to figure out this weight training.’ Now it is what it is and we can just go.”
Chubb echoed that.
“I think it has been overlooked. You can get by with it one year, but then the next year you change, and it kind of gets complicated,” Chubb said. “Hopefully we can get some kind of stability here and make things better.”
Yeah, I can see how that would lead to a bit of a mess.
Both points lend themselves to an argument that there is reason to be optimistic about improvement on the offensive side of the ball next season, but that’s something that remains to be seen, obviously. It’s also probably the strongest reason for giving Chaney another year.
Purely as an aside, boy, does this comment come off vastly different in hindsight:
Obviously Mike did great things here,” Schottenheimer said when he was introduced at Georgia. “He will do great things at Colorado State. I’m not gonna try to be Mike, certainly…”