Tyler asked a good question earlier in the week: “Why do we keep listing Quayvon Hicks as an H back?”
The role of the fullback has been on our radar for several years since we learned in 2011 that former tight end Bruce Figgins would be moved into the backfield. Figgins never really strayed from the typical fullback role, but his move started a discussion about the fullback’s place in a more diverse offense beyond good ol’ 344-Fullback.
Since then it’s been a rough time for fans of the fullback. Kyle King noted after the 2011 season that production from the position had been falling. When Brendan Douglas arrived last year, we wondered if he wouldn’t find his own niche in a crowded backfield. The injuries at tailback made any experimentation a luxury in 2013. Mike Bobo explained yesterday that Georgia in 2013 was a “one-back team 74 percent of the time,” trading a fullback for a third receiver.
So once again it’s preseason and we’re talking about a new way to use a former fullback.
The difference this year is that the coaches are talking about it too. The H-back has more or less been idle fan speculation – daydreaming about the best ways to use someone like Figgins. Now it’s a position mentioned by coaches, and there even seems to be a plan behind the position. Two players are now allocated to the position, and the staff has put thought into how to split the training between the tight end and backfield coaches. With that information, Tyler’s hunch about some tweaks to the offense seems to have been spot on.
No, it’s not going to be a dramatic change in scheme or an every-down look. As Bobo notes, there will still be a need for the power sets with a true fullback, and hopefully a healthy Jay Rome and Jordan Davis can fill the traditional tight end role that has been so important for Georgia under Mark Richt. It won’t even be the first time we’ve seen Hicks involved as an offset fullback or tight end – watch this play-action pass against Clemson. Not bad. (Incidentally, note the respect for Gurley by the Clemson defense on that play-action that opened so much room for Hicks.)
So why didn’t we see more of that? We were all excited for Hicks and his distinctive facemask after some big plays early in the season, but he was used less and less afterwards. From October on, Hicks had just two carries and three receptions. He ended up starting only six games and didn’t touch the ball in the final four games. A big reason behind his dwindling role had to do with blocking. As Bobo explained, “His issue sometimes blocking has been out in space, which causes him not to fit up properly.” You can see what Bobo was talking about on the blocked punt at Tennessee last year.
With another player added to the position and a more structured approach to coaching the H-back role, we should expect to see the role featured more often in the offense. How often will depend on the readiness of Blazevich and Hicks’s ability to develop consistency and clean up the details that kept him off the field in 2013.