A great tailback matters less than a great defense

Georgia's defense may well be a bigger key to 2011 success than Isaiah Crowell. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Georgia's defense may well be a bigger key to 2011 success than Isaiah Crowell. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Let’s face it, your average longtime Georgia Bulldog fan is probably someone who’s been known to utter the words, “run the damn ball” in frustration at times during the Mark Richt era.

UGA fans have a storied love affair with the running game dating from the Vince Dooley years when three yards and a cloud of dust got the job done, more often than not. And then there was Herschel Walker, of course, and a stellar group of backs that followed him in the 1980s.

Richt, of course, had Musa Smith and for a couple of years the nation’s premier running back in Knowshon Moreno. But generally speaking Richt has been more apt to rely on a running-back-by-committee approach. And despite the fact he’s an ardent proponent of a balanced offense, there has long been a suspicion among many in the Bulldog Nation that Richt really would prefer to chunk the seed all day if he got the chance.

Many’s the game at Sanford Stadium where I’ve heard fans express exasperation with Richt and Mike Bobo having the quarterback standing back there searching for an open receiver when there’s three or less yards to go for a first down. That’s when you often hear it. “Run the damn ball!”

Running the ball has been on the minds of Georgia fans a lot lately, what with the impending arrival of Isaiah Crowell and the transfer of Washaun Ealey (who apparently has never understood that in order to be a “premier back” who doesn’t share carries with a committee, you have to do more than talk the talk).

But despite fans’ long-nurtured obsession with the running game, as Matt Hinton of Dr. Saturday points out, a stand-out tailback hasn’t generally been the key to Richt’s most successful teams.

The 2002 SEC champions, even with Musa in the backfield, had only the 67th best rushing attack in the country and ranked ninth in the SEC. The 2003 team, which made it to the SEC championship game, ranked 74th nationally and 10th in the conference in rushing. (Last year’s team with a losing record managed a similar showing, ranking 73rd and 10th, respectively.) The 2005 team fared better (43rd nationally, third in the SEC) largely thanks to a quarterback who could take off running in D.J. Shockley.

What those teams did have, Hinton notes correctly, was “a genuinely rocking defense that made a mediocre running game look like a lot less of a burden. The Bulldogs finished in the top 15 nationally in both scoring and total defense three years in a row under coordinator Brian Van Gorder from 2002-04, and in the top 20 on both counts under successor Willie Martinez from 2005-07. Surprise: Those six seasons produced five outright or shared division titles, five top 10 finishes and two SEC championships.”

In other words, deee-fense, another longtime hallmark of Georgia football, is generally what determines the fate of a Richt team.

So, yeah, we should all be excited about seeing Crowell run out on the field wearing jersey No. 1 this fall. A truly balanced offense needs to be able to know that it can run the ball in short-yardage situations (something obviously Richt wasn’t too sure of in the Liberty Bowl when he opted to kick instead), and there’s nothing like a star tailback to give a team that confidence.

But how Todd Grantham fares in his second year of rebuilding the defense probably will have a lot more to do with whether Dogs fans wind up considering the 2011 season a success.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

381 comments Add your comment

WDE

May 11th, 2011
2:11 pm

Alphare = yawn

irondawg

May 11th, 2011
2:12 pm

34 of tech didnt work much against uga either. I guess it will be a shootout

TECHIE

May 11th, 2011
2:14 pm

First year. We will be better this year. MY GOD. I am starting to sound like a UGA fan.

....

May 11th, 2011
2:17 pm

WDE

May 11th, 2011
2:17 pm

TECHIE you’ll need a date with an actual live woman before you start sounding like a UGA fan..sorry I could not help myself!

irondawg

May 11th, 2011
2:21 pm

except a uga fan can say at least we won

Coach Richt

May 11th, 2011
2:21 pm

First of all, I want you to know that we have had no arrests this season. That is great news.

Second, I want all you to know that Ealey has been granted his release. That is bad news.

Third, I just want you to know that King is academically ineligible. That is worse.

Finally, we do not run that ball anyway so what does it matter.

kaydawg

May 11th, 2011
2:24 pm

if you don’t like UGA then get the HELL OFF OUR BLOG!!! THis is DAWG COUNTRY, NO TIde rollin here!! GO DAWGS I BLEED RED AND BLACK!!!!

Top Dawg

May 11th, 2011
2:26 pm

(1) You forgot to mention the importance of a stout offensive line. (2) Is Branden Smith foregoing # 1?

irondawg

May 11th, 2011
2:27 pm

you got beat by a BAD BAD UGA team that got beat by UCF. Keep Richt, great coach, he is a big boy that can take the heat, and he is being very well paid, need to win, but as ga history has shown, especially you dooley fans know, it dont always happen, look at Dooley’s record outside of the walker years, lots of Ls

TECHIE

May 11th, 2011
2:29 pm

Let’s see…Have a hot girl in college and marry early? Normally, wife gets fat and ugly with you.

Or?…wait until TECH grad has a high-salary job supervising UGA grad that has a fat, ugly wife. Then, have a hot young wife later in life? Hmmm…

I know she’ll marry me for the money, but I take the second option.

irondawg

May 11th, 2011
2:32 pm

very outdated tech and uga grad joke, doesnt apply anymore, and most tech grads go back to asia to work

COACH RICHT

May 11th, 2011
2:32 pm

Bobo is not going anywhere. He keeps fans from completely blaming me for the offensive woes.

Me

May 11th, 2011
2:33 pm

“Give me your top 5 coaches to replace him?” I understand your question and let me give you a simple answer, IT DOESN’T MATTER WHO REPLACES HIM. I know what Im going to get out of Mr. Preacher Man Richt. Bozo is a pathetic coach, McClendon is a joke and Tony Ball at WR is the biggest joke. We hire a temporary S&C coach. My man Greg knows what he is doing with Richt. His ass is being set up for failure. UGA is a premier coaching job and we settled on a Bobby Bowden assistant when Bowden was run out of town at FSU. Saban and Muschamp are kicking Richt’s ass in recruiting for 2012. Its been nice Richt, but get the hell out.

Big Dawg 37

May 11th, 2011
2:34 pm

The kids are weak because of their leader! The program needs some strong leader/coaches to step up and get this ship righted! Subpar attitude equals subpar results! Georgia will win 8 with the athletes they have this year, but we need athletes who will fight to win those big games!

WDE

May 11th, 2011
2:35 pm

TECHIE I swear I pity you Bugs…no one was talking marriage we were talking dates..in your case A date…you can actually date without marrying them…no need to wait..

Big Dawg 37

May 11th, 2011
2:35 pm

Bobo is a nice guy and will make a fine high school coach somewhere. Time to go!!!

AltamahaDawg

May 11th, 2011
2:35 pm

Cut him loose and move on? In May! Fire the head coach of the football team in May so we can move on? To what? An interim coach for the next 7 month. You cannot be that stupid.

COACH RICHT

May 11th, 2011
2:36 pm

My advice to Bobo is this..

“When it is 3rd and 1, fullback up the middle.”
“When is 3rd and 2, throw the bomb.”
“When it is 3rd and 10, run the draw or throw a screen.”

irondawg

May 11th, 2011
2:37 pm

uga the last few years is like the days of goff, donnan, and most of the 80s under dooley

COACH RICHT

May 11th, 2011
2:39 pm

My advice to Todd is this…

“When it is 3rd and long, rush 3 and play zone.”
“Pressure? Blitz? What’s that?”

CrackDaddy

May 11th, 2011
2:40 pm

I believe that 5.5 yds/carry is walking the talk.

McDawg

May 11th, 2011
2:41 pm

is Jenkins qualified??

NoGaGator

May 11th, 2011
2:44 pm

King is now coming up on his 5th year, and, if DawgInLex is correct, is still 18 hrs short of being on track!

What’s his major, nuclear engineering?

SSIgator

May 11th, 2011
2:45 pm

“UGA: The Junkyard Blawg A great tailback matters less than a great defense”

Uh-oh. UGA is in more trouble than I thought. They don’t have either one of the above. On the bright side though, they do have great attorneys and bail bondsmen

82Dawg

May 11th, 2011
2:45 pm

@NoGaGator …his major is how to be a D.A. and blow the chance of a life time…..

TECHIE

May 11th, 2011
2:47 pm

POP QUIZ for you UGA fans

Who won the last national championship?
a.GT b.UGA

What schools dominated UGA in the 90’s?

a. GT b. UF c. UT d. All of the above

What school has won the last conference championship?

a. GT b. UGA

Who is suppose dominate football in the state of GA but falls to meets it inflated expectations?

a. GT b. UGA

82Dawg

May 11th, 2011
2:47 pm

@SSIgator …People who live in glass houses should not throw rocks…now what was that about attorneys and bail bondsmen? I think they have been camping in Muschamps office lately…

McDawg

May 11th, 2011
2:49 pm

so under the semester sytem (we had quarters ) that is six classes he has to take this summer

no way thath appenes

DMR

May 11th, 2011
2:52 pm

Amen. Not just Georgia, but all the teams in the SEC that have had tremendous success have usually done so with a great defense. Nick Saban is a defensive mind. LSU’s defense has been loaded with All Conference d-linemen. Florida for all their offensive firepower in recent years have had great defenses. THIS IS WHERE IT IS WON AND LOST.

Grantham’s defense will really have to step up to keep Georgia in games; especially early in the season. If our front seven can control the line of scrimmage and pressure the quarterback, then Georgia can have a good to great year. If not, Athens…we have a problem.

DawginLex

May 11th, 2011
2:56 pm

If king flunks out, panic will set in. We will have 2 freshman running backs, Malcome and Crowell competing for the starting spot with Thomas, as senior as the fill in.

NOW do we all wish that Richt had recruited Marcus Caffey and not let him go to Kentucky?

Oh well. The defense was going to have to carry the day anyway. So be it. We won in 2002 with Musa Smith and practically no one else. Here’s hoping Malcome can be that guy and Crowell can learn quickly.

WDE

May 11th, 2011
2:56 pm

SSIgator no I’m not going to ask how many wins in the SEC or anywhere else does that HC of yours have…but rather think you’ll have a enough players left that 1) aren’t busted smoking dope or 2) transferred to field a complete team this year….I mean its like rats leaving a sinking ship in G’ville these days..

TECHIE

May 11th, 2011
2:57 pm

Why are you guys so worried about a running back? You do not run the bally anyway.

CFBFan

May 11th, 2011
2:59 pm

Rumor is that King is currently academically ineligble. Has the summer to get his grades up. He has submitted an appeal, but unless it was a grading error and appeal won’t be granted because your grades are what they are, unless due to error.

Stay tuned, Carlton Thomas may be the top RB this fall.

JB

May 11th, 2011
3:00 pm

Hummmm…. 234 hits on this blog and only 20 hits on the Tech blog at 11:34…. Don’t the Tech Alum in India blog?

LSU

May 11th, 2011
3:00 pm

We have an opening for KING and he would qualify right now.

JB

May 11th, 2011
3:02 pm

If we open with Carlton Thomas as the only experience and Malcome and Crowell, if he qualifies, we might be hurting. Brandon Smith, welcome to tailback.

TECHIE

May 11th, 2011
3:03 pm

Hmmmm…Find joy in point out the obvious that UGA is a second tier program. Always have, always will. To bad you guys never live up to expectations.

It is time for me to go and work. Lunch break was enjoyable. UGA sucks.

JB

May 11th, 2011
3:04 pm

We already have a third string TE playing FB…….oh boy.

JB

May 11th, 2011
3:05 pm

Boy, if we’re second tier, What is Tech that we beat them every year?

NoGaGator

May 11th, 2011
3:15 pm

WDE -

I will gladly bet you that our coach – with no head coaching experience – has a better record this year than your NC head coach.

We can also look forward to the soap opera for AU this year with their impending NCAA suspensions to come. Better get in shape and suck your Cammie juice Trooper, they’re coming after you!

UGA Insider

May 11th, 2011
3:17 pm

CMR and staff should have been notified that King and Crowell may not be eligible next fall before kicking Washaun off the team. This news today is shocking if true. I mean, what was the point of arguing over snaps with Washaun if he was to be the only guy left with game experience??? Poor, poor management. I hope CMR can turn this around but I just don’t see how. I’m afraid McGarity is thinking the same thing.

gdawg73

May 11th, 2011
3:19 pm

Can we say spread?

edumacated

May 11th, 2011
3:25 pm

Bill, you are an eternal optimist. Georgia will obviously have a pretty crappy running game early on next season, so now you say “We only need a great defense!”
Whatever, I’m not buying it.
Murray is going to be running for his life next year. Better yet, he might spend the year on the bench after he gets ploughed by a linebacker because Crowell misses a block.

SSIgator

May 11th, 2011
3:27 pm

UGA Insider -

Are you implying that the AD may have setup Richt by keeping silent about the lack of hours for King or was Richt aware of the situation and will blame everyone else at the end of the year for not having enough players to do the best job he could have?

AltamahaDawg

May 11th, 2011
3:29 pm

Washaun’s status with Georgia has nothing to do with anyone but Washaun.

matt

May 11th, 2011
3:29 pm

Musa- Chris Peterson and staff, Mack Brown and staff, Bob Stoops and staff, Nick Saban and staff, Pellini and staff, Dan Mullen and staff

That’s 6.

irondawg

May 11th, 2011
3:30 pm

hines ward was used as a tailback, but then again he played for the dogs went they would have begged for Richt type of production

Bodda Getta

May 11th, 2011
3:30 pm

Aurburn has already been investigated twice and nothing worthy of significant penalties were found.

But KEEP HOPE ALIVE butthurt Gator.

Deep down, you know Auburn owns Florida.

irondawg

May 11th, 2011
3:30 pm

mack brown just fired most of his staff after a terrible year