In a way, I’m glad that the offense has been under such scrutiny this week. Not that the defense is perfect, but I place special emphasis on the offense against South Carolina. Georgia’s output in Columbia last year was their worst against South Carolina since 1904. Lattimore or no, that’s not going to win games.
Despite the anemic output, the Dawgs were still in the game entering the fourth quarter. (This was another game where the failure to finish goes back to the failure to start.) You can point to the killer fumble or the absence of A.J., but you don’t expect to be in such a hopeless position when you only allow 17 points. This isn’t to discount the Garcia-Lattimore-Jeffrey show (not forgetting wildcards like Sanders). Their presence and ability makes it even more imperative that Georgia score more than the 18.1 points they’ve averaged against the Gamecocks under Mark Richt.
To that end, it looks as if Richt and Bobo will be sticking with the no-huddle approach that didn’t work so well a week ago. There are some good explanations why it wasn’t effective. Boise’s hurry-up offense, as explained by Kellen Moore, aimed to “get the defense into more base coverages and base defenses. They don’t have time to throw in their unique blitzes and things like that when they only have a short few seconds to call plays.” Sound familiar? Georgia’s approach to the no-huddle didn’t look to gain that same kind of schematic advantage. Instead, Georgia was focused more on the quantity of plays run. But by using a slower no-huddle that “90 percent of America” uses according to Coach Richt, they still let the Boise defense dictate the play and ended up running only 60 plays with little to show for them.
If no-huddle, damn-the-torpedoes it is, all is still not lost. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the shotgun or hurry-up, but there are problems if it plays against Georgia’s advantages on offense. (It’s fair to say that these “advantages” are still theoretical since we haven’t seen much of them.) Georgia’s primary formation against Boise was the shotgun, three receivers, one TE lined up tight, and one back.
The use of three receivers exposed one of Georgia’s weaker positions. King didn’t have his best game. Mitchell was a revelation but still got lost on a few routes (the perils of playing a true freshman.) Brown, Wooten, and King combined for 4 catches and 28 yards. Hopefully that will be the low-water mark for the group, but it’s significant enough to ask whether Georgia would have been better off trading a receiver for Figgins more often. There was a tangible benefit in the running game, Figgins also could have helped in pass protection, and we know he can catch the ball. If Charles is, more or less, going to be a third receiver, treat him like one and add a fullback.
The Dawgs altered that grouping on Boykin’s touchdown run. Figgins replaced the tailback. Boykin shifted to give Georgia a two-receiver, two-back look just before the snap. The tight end blocked inside, and the right tackle, along with Figgins, pulled outside to give Boykin the lane he needed.
Granting the fact that Figgins is still new to the fullback position, this is the kind of stuff that got fans and coaches excited thinking about the possibilities of an experienced tight end in a full-time fullback / H-back role. We saw precious little from Figgins Saturday after Boykin’s run, but it’s hard to do much from the bench. Yes, there’s a trade-off: someone has to sit, and there are matchups to consider. I’m just not so sure that with Charles in the game, the receiver situation what it is, and the need for better protection that Figgins shouldn’t see more time.
The shotgun look Georgia ran against Boise doesn’t have to be as vanilla as the Dawgs made it out to be. Murray isn’t Cam Netwon and can’t take the constant pounding running the ball that a 240 lb. quarterback could, but he’s still a rushing weapon. Georgia’s running plays out of the formation were all to the tailback and usually into the teeth of the Boise defensive line. There were many opportunities where a zone read option for Murray might have produced a big play.
The tailback also has a role in the passing game beyond blocking. On Monday night, I liked how Maryland used swing passes out of the backfield with some success. Their tailback ended up with four receptions from such passes – that would have been second-best for Georgia against Boise and more than any wide receiver. Crowell supposedly has above-average hands, but the offense didn’t do much to get him out in space where he’s at his most dangerous. Samuel had Georgia’s only two receptions out of the backfield, and only one late in the fourth quarter went for any yardage. With Crowell’s hands and Figgins’ experience at tight end, Georgia should be able to augment its receiving corps and attack aggressive defenses with more passes out of the backfield from its spread look.