One of the more interesting members of Georgia’s 2013 signing class is Brendan Douglas. Douglas was a late addition to the class, committing in the week before Signing Day. He got the conversation going for a couple of reasons: first, it was a chance to take a commitment away from Tech at the 11th hour (that phone call with Paul Johnson must’ve been pleasant.) But there was also the curiosity over the interest in a running back unknown to all but the most hard-core of recruitniks.
We didn’t even know what position Douglas played. Many initial reports had him as a fullback, and Rivals had him pegged as the nation’s #5 fullback. The offer of another fullback seemed strange. At the time, Zander Ogletree was still on the team, and Georgia also had underclassmen Hall and Hicks with experience at fullback.
But as the spring went on, coaches made it clear that Douglas is slotted to play tailback. Certainly that has to do with Georgia’s tailback depth – Bobo admitted that a true freshman – either Douglas or A.J. Turman – could see time this year out of necessity. Whether a fullback or a tailback, Douglas seems like the kind of guy who can find a role somewhere, even if it’s initially on special teams. He made news at an Augusta-area combine back in March, and we’ll let the Columbia County News-Times fill in the details:
The star of the day was Aquinas standout and University of Georgia signee Brendan Douglas. He won nearly every competition, posting some astonishing numbers such as a 40.5 inch vertical jump (Michael Jordan’s was 44 inches), a 10 foot, 2 inch broad jump (the top broad jump at UGA’s Pro Day this year was 10 foot, 3 inches), and he powered out 37 repetitions of 185 pounds on the bench press.
All of that is to set up a link to this post over at Football Study Hall (FSH): The run game renaissance and the return of the fullback. Now the fullback has never been marginalized in Mark Richt’s offense to the extent that it was elsewhere, but the points about finding new uses for “versatile” and “hybrid” players apply. Georgia has experimented with some of this versatility, but it’s mostly been with the tight ends. We’ve had Charles flexing outside, and Figgins moved to the backfield, and the H-back concept goes all the way back to the Shannon Mitchell days. But as FSH admits, finding these kinds of players at tight end isn’t easy. While Georgia has relied, and still does rely, on walk-ons at fullback, we’re also seeing an increased use of scholarship players at the position.
It caught my eye in May when Mark Richt mentioned the possibility of Gurley and Marshall in the backfield at the same time. Richt also emphasized that they’d have a fullback in as a lead blocker. That got more than a couple of people wondering how it would look. Certainly the wildcat is a possibility, and it’s a familiar set for Georgia. In a callback to the Shannon Mitchell days, the lead blocker could also be an H-back allowing for a traditional two-back shotgun set.
FSH identifies another possibility: the diamond. The diamond allows for a quarterback and three backs, including one or more fullbacks. It could certainly work with two tailbacks and the fullback that Richt described. Georgia used the pistol formation at times in 2012, and the diamond wouldn’t be a huge stretch from there. We don’t know exactly what the coaches have in mind for the backfield, but we’re encouraged to at least see the wheels turning. As the Bulldogs (and everyone else in the SEC) ponders how to deal with someone like Clowney, FSH identifies a role for the fullback:
As a response to spread tactics, defenses are playing quick and powerful athletes at defensive end but playing lighter and less physical players at linebacker. Consequently, while the defensive ends can be a load for the tight end to block, it’s not as difficult for a physical fullback with any meaningful size to cut block or lead block into those defensive ends. It’s certainly not that difficult for a good fullback to open lanes against the smaller, anti-spread linebackers and safeties when leading through a hole.
Now we don’t expect Douglas to be put out there right away by Game 2, but signing a player like that makes more sense down the road when you look at defensive trends. As FSH puts it, “These fullback/halfback players can free up an offense to feature explosive offensive weapons without losing physicality and committing the cardinal football sin of being ‘soft.'” We’ll be watching how a player like Douglas (whether nominally a tailback or fullback) fits in alongside the backfield of Gurley and Marshall and, later, alongside Chubb and Michel.