You’ve probably seen the stat by now: Georgia — Georgia! — is second in the country in passing yards per game. Georgia is averaging forty pass attempts a game.
If you wonder what is going on, Kirby Smart has an answer for you ($$).
Head coach Kirby Smart was asked Monday what the identity of this offense is and how it has evolved since he got to Georgia.
“It’s evolved based on the players. And that’ll never change,” he said. “If the strength of the team is the running backs, then we feature the backs. If the strength of the team is the tight ends, then we feature the tight ends. … Right now the strength of this team is probably the depth up front, the experience at quarterback, the distribution of the ball to be able to make you defend 53 yards.”
53 yards being the width of a football field. You know what’s missing from that quote? Sure you do.
November 22, 2019:
The stat: 6.6 yards per attempt
That’s the average gain of a Jake Fromm pass vs. SEC opponents this season, a steep decline from the past 2 years — down from 9.2 yards per attempt in 2017 and 8.8 per attempt in 2018. The current number ranks 8th among regular SEC starters, nearly 5 full yards per attempts behind the league leader, Tua Tagovailoa (11.3), and almost 4 yards behind Joe Burrow (10.4).
It’s also one of many, many ways to point to the recurring theme of Georgia’s offense in 2019: Namely, the Bulldogs’ mystifying lack of explosiveness…
In general, Fromm has been good for roughly 1 successful downfield shot per game — his only 25+ yard completions in the wins over Notre Dame, Florida, and Auburn were touchdowns covering 36, 52, and 51 yards, respectively — amid a steady diet of dinking and dunking. Despite their enviable depth at wide receiver, the Bulldogs’ average yards per catch in SEC games (11.0) ranks 10th out of 14 teams.
As long as the defense is holding up its end of the bargain the risk-averse approach makes sense: Georgia is tied for the national lead in scoring D vs. FBS opponents and remains the only team that has held every opponent to 17 points or less in regulation…
October 15, 2019:
But with the switch to James Coley as offensive coordinator, the Georgia offense has even more deeply embraced the “impose our will” manball tendencies that they had cultivated under former offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. Against South Carolina, Georgia ran on 60% of standard downs even though their overall run rate was only 42.6%. That means there were a ton of run-run-pass sequences…
Kirby wants more explosive plays — hell, what coach doesn’t? — but listen to the way he thinks his team should get them.
“Being explosive is a lot of things,” Smart said. “It’s blocking downfield. It’s winning one-on-ones. It’s speed, vertical speed versus horizontal speed. There’s a lot of things combined in that.”
It’s all about players beating players. Nothing about play design or offensive philosophy. What all that should tell you is that when it comes to designing an offense, Smart values efficiency over explosiveness. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that, per se, but it also leaves you without much to fall back on when, like Saturday, the efficiency engine sputters repeatedly.
Offensive philosophy has gone from nothing to everything in a few short years. Smart deserves a ton of credit for recognizing the need to change his approach on that side of the ball, despite what every fiber of his inner being was telling him. I’d argue it’s just as big a deal as Saban’s conversion was.
I won’t say manball is dead, per se, but I will say there’s been a sea change in direction since Georgia got their ass kicked in the 2019 SECCG. That game probably ought to go down as the most important loss in Georgia history.