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

irondawg

May 11th, 2011
3:31 pm

pellini cant even win the big 12

ca dawg

May 11th, 2011
3:31 pm

bill: why are you so negative? i agree that defense is the key to getting us back on top. so why not actually discuss the defense and all the reasons we have to be optimistic about it heading into 2011? i respectfully disagree with the soi-disant “draft analyst” about the level of talent on our defense coming into 2011–we don’t measure up to bama, for sure, but no one else does either, so that’s hardly a fair comparison. do we have 4 first round picks? no, but we’ve got plenty of talented kids who can get after it.

you spent more time complaining about richt not running the ball than talking about our defense. i challenge you to breathe a positive word — just one — about our dawgs at some point this summer.

irondawg

May 11th, 2011
3:34 pm

though I like richt, I would take Saban, I was in Athens during the Goff and Donnan, Mason denial, I will take the last few years, just needs to be turned around, can not except to be average like tech much longer. At least their grads get to go back to asia

Bodda Getta

May 11th, 2011
3:36 pm

Nice job Bill.

A great tailback matters less than a great defense?

This is true if you have a dominant rusher at QB…which obviously Georgia does not have.

Georgia obviously does not have a great defense or a great tailback or as it appears, any tailback at all this season.

Georgia has a great punter. Write about that.

Bodda Getta

May 11th, 2011
3:38 pm

Irondawg,

Mack Brown will be Georgia’s head coach next year.

You heard it here.

Dunhill

May 11th, 2011
3:39 pm

Hi Bill–

The offense needs to learn how to score more than 2 td’s a game against ranked teams.

I remember back in the Stafford/Moreno heydays, we’d put up 35 a game against ranked teams.

Down to 14 a game now.

That’s the problem.

dooley guy

May 11th, 2011
3:39 pm

best defense is one on the sideline with the offence controling the ball and scoring . Keep there offence off the field and your defense looks better. Defense has to help themselves and stop the third down conversions. time of possion does matter.

Dawg Tell

May 11th, 2011
3:43 pm

Defense wins championships.However a strong running game controls the clock which is a asset for the defense.UGA has not had a running attack for the last three years.It shows in the win/loss record.WE need a strong offensive line to go with a good defense to win in the SEC.Without both it will be a long season. GO DAWGS!

WDE

May 11th, 2011
3:45 pm

Bodda Getta where can we buy what your smoking?

DawginLex

May 11th, 2011
3:52 pm

crowell hasn’t graduated high school yet Insider?

how in the he!! is he ineligible at UGA already?

ugaclassof2004

May 11th, 2011
3:55 pm

@ac1996

Yes I remember how bad UGA football was in the 1990’s and guess what: we’re back there now. A down year is one thing, but getting consistently worse for the LAST THREE YEARS is another. I swear this blind loyalty to Richt is the damnest thing I’ve ever seen. Every other SEC fan I have talked doesn’t understand why we keep him, and I honest to God have no sufficient answer.

And BTW a Good Divorce is better than a Bad Marriage.

ugaclassof2004

May 11th, 2011
3:56 pm

@ac1996

Yes I remember how bad UGA football was in the 1990’s and guess what: we’re back there now. A down year is one thing, but getting consistently worse for the LAST THREE YEARS is another. I swear this blind loyalty to Richt is the damnest thing I’ve ever seen. Every other SEC fan I have talked to doesn’t understand why we keep him, and I honest to God have no sufficient answer.

And BTW a Good Divorce is better than a Bad Marriage.

JB

May 11th, 2011
3:59 pm

IF Crowell has to go the Military Route in Virginia this year, we will be playing players at RB who are not RB’s. Let’s all hope Crowell is in. I watched his highlights on Youtube this week. He’s pretty darn good.

JB

May 11th, 2011
4:02 pm

Seems like the air is coming out of the balloon just because Ealey is gone. I swear, I’ll take Brando Smith 20 rush’s a game over him.

Dawg4ever

May 11th, 2011
4:02 pm

If you are able to run the ball successfully, and stop the run successfully, you will be successful. Unfortunately UGA can’t do either, that is why it will be a long season again this fall. Add the fact that UGA has a terrible offensive line, average receivers,average or below running backs, a terrible secondary, and a very questionable front 7, and this fall seems to have disaster written all over it. Don’t see any reason to expect any change from last year’s record. But i forgot Richt and his coaches are the best in the SEC at developing a game plan, and coaching their players up. RIGHT!! LOL. But Richt knows what the helllllllll he is doing, that’s why he has a .500 record in the SEC the past 3 years. This team will suck again this fall, and then preacherboy will have to fall on his own sword finally.

AltamahaDawg

May 11th, 2011
4:03 pm

Big weed smoker are you WDE?

Better Dawgs!

May 11th, 2011
4:04 pm

JunkYard D in 2011 will be back! Don’t worry! IC and KM at tail. We will be fine. See you in the Dome LSU.

WDE

May 11th, 2011
4:08 pm

AltamahaDawg LOL nope never have been…but really this must be killer sh&& !

THE TRUTH

May 11th, 2011
4:13 pm

Ealey was good but over-rated.
Richt is a Very good coach, but he isn’t coaching anymore.
Bobo experiment should be over; it has failed.
UGA had very good defenses under Vangorder, then came Willie. Defenses were OK w/ Vangorder left-overs, but then it all went downhill -Quick.
Moreno & Stafford were over-rated. Stafford had great arm-strength but Joe Cox could throw a more catchable long ball. Moreno took too many plays off. BOTH of them had too much ‘power’ over Richt & Co.
Jury is out on Grantham; we will know this yr if he’s a true D-cord.
O-line will likely be bad this yr, so there will likely be a good QB that will have no time to throw & a good RB that won’t be able to run. I hope I’m wrong. If I’m right Right will be job searching this time next yr.

Snoop Dawg

May 11th, 2011
4:16 pm

The real skill players are the hogs on the line. Until the UGA gets a great line, Jesus could not break 1,000 yards in a season… Amd without a superior line, your quarterback tends to get concussions or else throws interceptions while he is scrambling for his life.

Throw away the koolaid, folks…

astrouga

May 11th, 2011
4:16 pm

UGA is not running back edu. We had had a few decent backs, but that is it. Too many people are already claiming Crowell is going to rush for 1000 yards this season — really? The kid hasn’t even played a down of college ball. UGA just needs a few backs to produce each game. They don’t need a 100-yard back, just 100+ yards a game. Defense and passing are the best hope for UGA this year.

Real Dawg Fan

May 11th, 2011
4:18 pm

O-Line will be decent, defense looks good, strong at RB…might be the Year of the Dawg since most of the SEC is in a “rebuilding” year

Jasper Sanks

May 11th, 2011
4:22 pm

it was NOT a fumble. i cannot help the zebras make the right call but the replay clearly shows i was down.

CFBFan

May 11th, 2011
4:25 pm

If you guys don’t like the news about King or Crowell, wait to you hear John Jenkins’ academic standing. I’ll give you a hint, let’s say that all he must have focused on in JUCO was football and nothing else.

BBPrince

May 11th, 2011
4:27 pm

Murray just has a few tweaks.

All he has to do is fix his:
1) 0-6 record against winning teams
2) 3rd down accuracy
3) 3rd down pass efficiency
4) 3rd and long accuracy
5) 4th quarter accuracy
6) 4th quarter pass efficency
7) tendance to commit 3-4 to’s in big games
8) tendancy to hold onto the ball too long (25 sacks vs. 8 with Cox)
9) poor pass accuracy in 1st quarter
10) poor pass efficiency in 1st quarter
11) poor 1.6 td td to int ratio against ranked teams (5 td’s/3 int’s)

Fix those 11 things, and Murray will be great.

AltamahaDawg

May 11th, 2011
4:30 pm

Ah, just a fan of worn out cliche’s?

UgaSouth

May 11th, 2011
4:30 pm

Enter your comments here

UgaSouth

May 11th, 2011
4:34 pm

With academic ineligibility having decimated the RB and OL positions, we better have a good D! Harmon and Caleb King are big losses!

Dallas,Tx Dawg

May 11th, 2011
4:36 pm

Some of you guys kill me with your doomsday stuff about this being Mark Richts’ last year. Half of you never played football past middle school and couldn’t beat a video game version of college football. I have always loved, and always will UGA. We are not going to win the SEC every year or even every other year, so whats with all this garbage about us being poor again this year ? I feel very good about our chances in the east and some of our players just may surprise you. As die hard as I am, some of you make complete asses of yourself talking about things which you know nothing about. This year will be a great year of Georgia football, and how short your memories are about getting a new coach. Does anyone need to be reminded of Goff,Donnan ? Seriuosly, stick a sock in it !!! nobody cares about what YOU think the DAWGS should do to win a championship. Go back to watching your Nascar, and make your doublewide payment !!

AltamahaDawg

May 11th, 2011
4:36 pm

Is it possible that you could sit around and think about Aaron Murray ANY more time during your day?

rocketfuel

May 11th, 2011
4:39 pm

Hopefully after this year the CMR era will be over at UGA.He can take the money and run.Alot of folks are clamoring for Kirby Smart as the next HC.Have to wait and see what this season brings.I would love to see the Dawgs go 10-2 or 11-1 and win the SEC,unfortunately that means CMR will get an extension and we will be mediocre again.

Mystery Blue

May 11th, 2011
4:45 pm

The biggest change that CMR needs to make is to stop recruiting the low-class illiterate jerkoffs who he seems to think will win for him and keep his oversized paychecks coming in. People like Marcus Dowtin, A.J. Green, Washaun Ealey, Caleb King, and others too numerous to mention are not team players, they’re punks who are much closer to a gang than a team.

It’s sickening to see dummies and goons like these representing the state’s flagship university.

Dallas,Tx Dawg

May 11th, 2011
4:45 pm

Or better yet, we can go plunk down big money for a coach with a name, like Rich Rodriguez !! yeah, that should do it. Ask Michigan if they wouldn’t like to have a do over on that one !!!!!

dawgster

May 11th, 2011
4:45 pm

@CBF Fan..Please enlighten us with your facts if you have some…I suspect you don’t have any, but if so, please share them with us if you are going to make statements about a young man’s personal life….

Sarai in East Point

May 11th, 2011
4:47 pm

Kirby Smart is the hope and future of this team. Richt has to go, hopefully the day after SC hands this team their heads on a platter.

Richt`s Hammer

May 11th, 2011
4:51 pm

Boise State 78 Dawgs 3

Dallas,Tx Dawg

May 11th, 2011
4:52 pm

Dawgster, I wouldn’t sweat his stupidity. Some of these guys must be on their break at Burger King. They wish they knew what they were talking about. They are the same fans who stand up and cheer when we win the SEC, but fairweather fans are plentiful at UGA.

THE TRUTH

May 11th, 2011
4:53 pm

Dallas,Tx Dawg , and I could say ‘What about AU’? What about ALA?

Not saying that RIcht should go yet, but he’s digging an aweful large hole. Let ’s hope he doesn’t fall in.

kevin

May 11th, 2011
4:54 pm

BBPrince,

Nice observations, except you leave out that Murray had the highest QB rating of all freshmans in CFB and comes into the SEC this year as the unchallenged best QB in the league.

NCdawg

May 11th, 2011
4:54 pm

Short memories. How many times during the Dooley years did I hear, “Damn it, Dooley, PASS THE BALL!”

THE TRUTH

May 11th, 2011
4:55 pm

Sarai in East Point, Kirby Smart? Seriously??? I remember Kirby getting dragged up & down the field when he played. He running Saban’s D –not his own. He hasn’t proved that he can coach a defense on his own –no need to think he could handle a HC job.

Dallas,Tx Dawg

May 11th, 2011
4:56 pm

Sarai in East Point- Kirby Smart ??? really ?? Kinda like Obama was the hope and future of this country . What’s next ? unicorn farts and candyland dreams !!! Where do you get this stuff ?? Kirby Smart didn’t want to come home when he had the chance, what makes you think he wants to come back next year ???

CFBFan

May 11th, 2011
4:56 pm

Dawgster,

Not going to say anything about a young man’s personal life more than what I stated earlier. Pay for your Scout account and join the Dawg vent for inside information.

Everything I have said on here was said by insider UGA fans on the DawgVent, so who works at Burger Kind again?

dawgster

May 11th, 2011
4:57 pm

@Dallas, Tx Dawg…you’r right, it just seems that comments such as his breeds stupidity from others…Also….trying to figure out this info on King when they just finished finals today at UGA…Grades not posted yet and won’t be for a few days I believe….I wish some of these so called experts that have all this info would disclose where its coming from…I’m sure the University would love to know who is leaking this out to these blog sites….go dawgs

Dallas,Tx Dawg

May 11th, 2011
5:04 pm

Dawgster, all that “information” that he is paying big bucks for, comes with a free frosted orange at the Varsity, and a year supply of rice-a-roni, the San Francisco treat !!! They probably get it from somebody who works at the dorm and washes the dishes. What a waste. But I too will be interested in what everyones grades are. Go Dawgs !!!

dawgster

May 11th, 2011
5:07 pm

@CBF Fan…You are doing a good job of dodging the answer…Scout.Com..now theres a source i would trust in any situation,…Then state that you heard or read or whatever when you make comments like the one you did regarding Jenkins…At least know that you were not just coming up with your on stuff…Don’t quite get the Burger King comment…but I’m an alumni of UGA and am a former dawg, and am quite proud of it..It disturbs me when people like yourself and others spread things that you have no knowledge of…At this point I can’t deny or confirm anything you have stated, however, I would suggest you think about what you post about a young mans personal life on these blogs…Spin it anyway you like but you know what your post said and I don’t believe you indicated that it was something that you read on Scout.com or wherever until you were confronted with it….Oh i forgot you mentioned the Dawgvent….If those are your sources then have at it….

CamdenMark

May 11th, 2011
5:08 pm

I want to know what kind of dimwit calls a 4 wide spread on 3rd and 3 and has all of them run deep routes,eh Booboo.Felt like throwing a brick thru the tube.

Fisher

May 11th, 2011
5:08 pm

Western Carolina 92, TECH 6 (missed the extra point kick)

kevin

May 11th, 2011
5:08 pm

Dallas TX Dawg,

Actually, some of us think Obama is doing a fine job running the country. Certainly, he is doing better than the bozo that held the office before him. That said, It’s a football blog.–why not talk football and keep the hannity regurgitation to yourself.

CamdenMark

May 11th, 2011
5:13 pm

Bama’s doing a fine job tearing down the Republic and communizing the country,couldn’t agree more.(dimwit)