Take a little journey with me. Mike Bobo’s last three years at the helm saw Georgia’s offense produce the best scoring numbers of Mark Richt’s Athens tenure: 37.8 points per game in 2012; 36.7 points per game in an injury-riddled 2013; and 41.3 points per game in 2014.
That level of production was maintained despite a decline in yards per passing attempt: an impressive 10.0 in 2012 fell over a yard per attempt to 8.9 in 2013 and fell again to 8.1 in 2014, despite Hutson Mason setting a school record for completion percentage. The deep ball was falling out of favor, in other words.
The reason the offense didn’t miss a beat was because of the production of the running backs. In 2012, Gurley and Marshall both averaged more than six yards a carry. The injuries in 2013 certainly took a toll, but Gurley still managed essentially six yards a crack and J.J. Green showed well at 5.65 ypc. 2014 was amazing, though. Gurley and Chubb both averaged better than seven yards for every rush and Michel chipped in with almost six and a half yards per carry.
As we all know, the bottom fell out of Georgia’s offense in 2015 and 2016. The precipitous drop in scoring was fueled by both a decline in yards per passing attempt — 7.4 ypa in 2015 and 6.5 ypa in 2016 (opponents were actually better than Georgia in that regard last season, which is pretty stunning) — as well as a similar story for rush production. Chubb was performing at a higher level in 2015 before his injury, but Georgia finished that year without a running back besides Chubb averaging more than 5.3 ypc and last season Chubb and Michel produced 5.04 and 5.53 ypc, respectively.
It’s only a minute long, so it’s not a deep dive, but Aaron Murray still manages to identify what Georgia has to recapture on offense if it hopes to improve its offensive scoring.
Play action has been and is still Georgia’s bread and butter. They can tap dance around with the occasional foray into the Wildcat, speed sweep and five-wide sets to take advantage of defenses, but things work best when the backs are doing enough damage to make safeties commit to the run game and open up the play action pass. Eason doesn’t have to approach Mason’s completion percentage record to be successful, because he has the arm strength to be more of a legitimate deep threat than Mason was. Georgia needs that threat this season to make its offense go as much as it needs running backs who can cover more than six yards when they touch the ball.
Yes, Eason’s got to show improvement to take advantage when the opportunity presents itself, but for the umpteenth time, this offense needs better line play to click. That’s what Pittman’s being paid the big bucks for.
If the play action game returns in 2017, you’ll know the coaches are doing their jobs. If it doesn’t…