Athens -– So many things need fixing on Georgia’s football team right now, as you’ll glean from this mid-season report, but one thing that absolutely has to get fixed if the team is going to have any significant success in the second half of the season is the running game.
The Bulldogs are the only SEC team averaging less than 100 yards per game rushing (97.2). Heck, four SEC teams are averaging over 200 yards per game rushing. Florida is averaging almost 300 (284.6). Nationally, only 16 of 120 major-college teams have run for fewer yards than Georgia this season.
I asked Mike Bobo on Tuesday night what has to happen to turn this around.
“We need to play with more passion up front. We need to finish blocks. And we need to have a sense of urgency when we’re running the football,” Georgia’s offensive coordinator answered. “That’s offensive linemen. That’s tight ends. And that’s running backs.
“You’ve got to take pride in it, and you’ve got to play hard and physical.”
The dual issue is that the offensive line has not played nearly as well as expected and that there’s been no one remotely approximating Knowshon Moreno in the backfield to make something out of nothing, or much out of little.
Richard Samuel has started all six games at tailback but is averaging only 52.8 yards rushing per game, a figure boosted by one scintillating 80-yard run vs. Arkansas. Caleb King has played in three games, averaging 40.3 yards. Freshman Washaun Ealey has played in two games, running for 33 yards on eight carries in the first (LSU) but only 18 yards on 10 carries in the second (Tennessee). Carlton Thomas has played sparingly, averaging 13.8 yards in four games.
“No one has really stood out,” Mark Richt said Tuesday of the tailbacks. “No one has really asserted himself to the point where he’s our guy. Part of Caleb’s issue has been injuries [hamstring, broken jaw, concussion] all the way throughout. Richard has been solid. I think they’ve all been kind of solid -– nothing spectacular.
“No one has really made the offensive line look better than they are blocking at times. We have pretty much been getting what we’ve been blocking for, which statistically hasn’t been a whole heck of a lot.
“I do see improvement. Guys don’t get better until they get experience. Washaun has shown some sparks here and there. He’s still learning what to do on all the little things. Carlton did a nice job this last ballgame; we may see a little bit more of him. It has been a situation where no one man has really separated himself.”
Quarterback Joe Cox is quick to note that the running game is not all that ails the offense, and he’s right about that. But he acknowledges: “It’s tough if you become one-dimensional, and we definitely need to pick up our running game.”
Bobo said there is “open competition” among the tailbacks on the practice field this week. King returned to practice Tuesday, albeit in a non-contact green jersey, after missing last week’s game because of the broken jaw and concussion suffered in the LSU game. King is scheduled to engage in full contact at today’s practice, and if that goes well, he’ll play Saturday.
A few other things:
– There was some interesting basketball chatter with Mark Fox and Andy Landers on Tuesday, too. I’ll blog about that before their teams open practice on Friday.
– Quick hoops items for now: On the men’s team, senior walk-ons Ricky McPhee and Tyler Whatley have been awarded scholarships for this school year. . . . Guard Travis Leslie, who sat out the final five games last season to concentrate on academics, is doing fine in the classroom, according to Fox, and is on the pre-practice roster. . . . And on the women’s team, Angel Robinson had off-season arthroscopic knee surgery but is expected to be fully cleared for practice before the season starts.