I think of all the recruits that Coach Richt and his staff got signed to Georgia last month, Keith Marshall is the one I am most excited about, both in terms of his production potential and what he can do to help push and motivate the other running backs on campus.
The tailback position made some headlines in the paper today, for items other than hot boxing on the way to spring break. Richard Samuel doesn’t want to be forgotten, Carlton Thomas is going to transfer. Not much of a surprise there. Also, Isaiah Crowell wants himself a Heisman run. I am glad that Isaiah has such a good attitude following his up and down freshman campaign, and the reports are that he has been working hard in the gym and has added some muscle mass. But Isaiah has a loooong way to go before he can make a Heisman run, and that brings me to a topic I have had in queue for a while and haven’t had a chance to post on here.
In January, I did a series of post about the UGA offense in 2011. The posts were looking at how the poor offensive line play hindered Aaron Murray, Mike Bobo’s job as play caller and UGA fans’ claims that Bobo got conservative in the SEC Championship game. I used stats to show that Bobo haters are by and large just looking for a scapegoat, and that Georgia did not get too conservative against LSU.
Now that I have had some time, I want to delve into the running game in 2011. I can describe the running game in 2011 with one word: pathetic. Some of it was due to injury, some was due to playing some really good teams. But the end result is the same. It was overall awful.
For some reason WordPress is funky when you try and add charts, so click on this PDF link and view the chart to accompany your reading of the post. 2011 running game
To summarize my findings:
I threw out the performances against cupcakes Coastal Carolina and New Mexico State. In the remaining 12 games, UGA was held below the opponents’ season average for the rushing yards they give up in a game 7/12 times. In two of those cases, it was against LSU and Michigan State, and surely there isn’t much shame in not doing well against the two of the best defenses in the country.
Georgia did run the ball extremely well against Auburn, and that was in large part due to getting up so big in the first half and basically running down the clock in the second half. One might look at the stats and say Georgia’s best day running the ball was against Auburn and Crowell’s best afternoon was against Ole Miss, but you’d be mistaken. After taking the quality of opponent in mind, the best performance by UGA and Isaiah Crowell running the ball was against South Carolina. UGA went for 188 yards, 4.1 ypc. South Carolina’s defense averaged 136 ypg.
The old saying is there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. This is true about the 2011 opener vs Boise State. UGA rushed for 157 yards, had 4.4 ypc and Boise’s average on defense was 110 ypg.
However, you must look closer. Brandon Boykin was the team’s leading rusher with his 80 yard touchdown run. If you look even closer in box score, Malcolm Mitchell had 18 yards on a reverse. If you take away the 98 yards on those two plays, Georgia only rushed the ball for 59 yards. Pathetic.
What was truly alarming is as the season wore on, Isaiah Crowell became less and less of a factor. In 5 of the final 6 games, Georgia was led by Brandon Harton and Ken Malcome. Against Georgia Tech a cornerback was the starting tailback!
For Georgia to continue its upward momentum from 2011, the running game has to be better. Like I mentioned earlier, a lot of the problems in 2011 had to do with injuries. But attitude can go a long way. The tailbacks seem to be getting better in that area, but the offense hinges on the running game. Murray and Bobo are at their best when the play action is effective. A strong running game is key to the offense clicking and UGA winning the SEC East again in 2012.