Todd Gurley, Georgia’s backs feel like there’s much room to improve

The Bulldogs and tailback Todd Gurley feel like there is a lot of room to improve in the running game. (UGA photo by Evan Stitchler)

The Bulldogs and tailback Todd Gurley feel like there is a lot of room to improve in the running game. (UGA photo by Evan Stitchler)

ATHENS — You may have noticed Georgia has been tossing the ball around a good bit. And that’s just in the running game.

The Bulldogs this season are utilizing the toss — or lateral — more often when they run the football. And unlike in past years, when that usually meant an outside running play, Georgia is doing it when it intends to carry the ball between the tackles.

That’s no accident. It’s a wrinkle the Bulldogs picked up from LSU, which utilized that tactic to great effect last year.

“It’s basically the old-school power,” Georgia coach Mark Richt explained. “We’ve handed it off over the years; most everybody in the country still hands it off. [But] LSU has been a team that’s tossed it like that and you could see the benefit of it on film when we watched LSU do it.”

Richt said the advantage of it is two-fold. One, it actually utilizes the quarterback as a blocker or even just a shield from back-side pursuit. It’s also “softens up” the linebackers, who normally read the toss as an outside play and simply get out to the perimeter as fast as they can. Now they need to be more careful to mind their inside gaps.

Of course, the down side of it is you’re unable to utilize a play-fake and ball security can be an issue. The Bulldogs fumbled the ball three times this past Saturday against Missouri, including on their very first play from scrimmage when freshman tailback Todd Gurley mishandled a toss from quarterback Aaron Murray.

“I made a mistake,” said Gurley who led the Bulldogs in rushing with 65 yards on 10 carries but lost five on that play. “I just need to look the ball in. I need to to catch the ball next time we’re in that play and get my eyes up.”

Murray was talking this week about “the four-headed monster” Georgia has at the tailback position in Gurley, Ken Malcome, Keith Marshall and Richard Samuel. The Bulldogs have been effective in running the football. They’re averaging 170 yards per game and have scored four touchdowns in two games. But that’s seventh among SEC teams and they’re sixth in yards per carry (4.6). So there is much room for improvement.

“We have to get better,” Richt said. “We missed some opportunities this last game maybe more than game one as far as hitting it in the right spot. We missed some good blocking more than a couple of times and it wasn’t just one guy. I think all of the backs probably a run or two that could have gained some more yards. . . . There were some inside runs that some of the guys missed where it was blocked a little better than where they ran. We need to be more consistent.”

Richt said a lot of it could be blamed on youth in the backfield and on the line. They will improve rapidly the more they play.

“Like I told the staff, we won the game, it was a great victory, it was a good fourth quarter win for us, but we have a lot of room to improve and that’s a good thing,” Richt said. “That’s our job as coaches to keep teaching and training and trying to get us to be consistent in what we do.”

Gurley, the 6-foot-1, 218-pound freshman from North Carolina, is slated to start for the second straight week. He’s currently tied for the SEC lead in scoring at 12 points per game and is fourth in rushing with an 82-5-yard average.

Gurley believes as a group Georgia’s tailbacks have much more to offer because of their depth.

“We’re competitive,” he said. “We take pride in that. Most of the time, teams come out running, so we try to be the ones to set that spark.”

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81 comments Add your comment

ignition

September 13th, 2012
1:20 pm

I think part of the problem is a lack of identity when it comes to UGA’s offense. Are they a fitness passing spread team or a power running team that utilizes the play action pass..

The offense is so everywhere and imo lacks a true identity of what it wants to be..

ignition

September 13th, 2012
1:20 pm

i guess first..

ff

September 13th, 2012
1:23 pm

ff

September 13th, 2012
1:23 pm

Four- Headed Monster

September 13th, 2012
1:32 pm

Agree with you Ignition…. there should be more consistency with what they want to be as an offense. I mean unless they are just trying to have different attacks depending on opponent. Just another Richt tactic?

Mike Franklin

September 13th, 2012
1:43 pm

It’s not that difficult… and this goes for all teams in every conference and league…

1. Before taking the field, players should use sanitary wipes to clean the KFC grease off their fingers.
2. Use both hands to hold the ball. No one will disrespect you if you don’t flash it around in one hand.
3. Be ready for the defense to try and strip the ball. This is part of the game.
4. Above all, don’t spike the ball before you step into the end-zone… that makes fans and coaches just a little upset.

Play ball!

Four- Headed Monster

September 13th, 2012
1:59 pm

@Mike Franklin

HAHAHAH All very true

Vampire Bill

September 13th, 2012
2:00 pm

It’s all coaching. Dawgs pay well over 4 million dollars a year in Football coaches. I know it’s a bad economy and prices are on the rise. Hopefully we can get some good value for 4 million plus?

AltamahaDawg

September 13th, 2012
2:06 pm

More rushing yards than Nick Saban. More passing yards than Steve Spurrier. Keep doing what you are doing coach.

Blue Ridge Dawg

September 13th, 2012
2:12 pm

@ Ignition- – - Identity?? UGA has never been nor never will be a “spread offense”. Just because a team lines up in a shotgun doesnt mean its a spread. We have established an identity… We have the exact number of running plays as passing plays. Thats what good teams do… Balanced. GO DAWGS!!

gomdawg

September 13th, 2012
2:21 pm

We have a very good group of tailbacks and I think with time you are going to see Keith take it to the house a few times . our receivers are as good as any in the SEC . Murray just has to come out the gate strong . It looks like the fast we play the better he is.
GO DAWGS BEHIND YOU 100%

Joe Cox

September 13th, 2012
2:26 pm

@mike franklin no 1 is a little racist but you did just make me want KFC

GB's Hamburgers

September 13th, 2012
2:26 pm

It’s totally funny that “UGA picked up the pitch from LSU”. Before Bobo & Richt …. we owned the pitch. It’s the best way to use good backs. When asked about it, Richt answers that their hand-off to the outside “is their pitch play”. Well, it’s never has been effective. But stubborn is as stubborn does. Is there anyone more hard headed? It literally takes years for Richt to make an obvious change.

joe jenkins

September 13th, 2012
2:33 pm

Gurley won’t improve much…with theus starting at RT. the man is not ready for the sec…Ncaa screws us again by keeping a darkhorse superstar like koulton houston on the sidelines…A mediocre O-line and a good but underacheiveing defense will once again cause us to come up short in the sec title game….Trust me disney dawgs…Ive been watching uga football for 26 yrs…i have seen this story once before

Destin Dawg

September 13th, 2012
2:34 pm

I like that Richt says ” we need to get better ” ” youth in the backfield “.. great attitudes.. this team has huge upside potential.. keep working.. Go all the way THIS YEAR !!!!

GB's Hamburgers

September 13th, 2012
2:37 pm

I did want to add that “Ignition” in the first comment on this blog is totally right. Alabama against Michigan was a beautiful thing to watch. Runs and passes were blended beautifully. The biggest problem with UGA’s offense is too many deep passes. They are low percentage calls and can stop the steady progress a more integrated effort achieves. Bobo calls great long plays but they do have a tendency to kill the rhythm.

AltamahaDawg

September 13th, 2012
2:40 pm

I’m a fan of Keith Marshall. Keep running him up the middle. (aside from the fact that we are not sealing off the corners very well) he is going to have plenty of yards hitting those gaps. I think too many people misunderstand the whole concept. They see him as the “smallest” of the guy and assume he has no place between the tackles. Run the bigger guys.

IF size was the biggest factor, then why not hand it to the biggest fullback. There is NO rushing game strategy that is centered around our guys bulldozing your guy.(other than short yardage) IF these SEC Defensive linemen are in the gap when the RB arrive, they WILL stuff it, I don’t care who he is. The point is to have a quicker backs at times that can get past that line, and force the LB to start pulling in for run support. There is probably a reason that OC’s want to see that happen.

AltamahaDawg

September 13th, 2012
2:49 pm

I don’t think Bobo (and its actually Aaron Murray’s call anyway) threw it deep but a time or two against MIzzou, did he?

And that was 2nd and short, which IS the time to do it.

I think he would have more, but procedure calls killed a handfull of other 2nd and short situations.

Personally I think it’s very effective to do so, when it’s sitting right in front of you. There is nothing better IMO, to keep a defense from putting 8 guys right up front.

Took a lot of long shots in the Buffalo game, but my goodness, they had man coverage on the WR, and no safety behind him. Scored a TD 3/7 deep balls.

HardTruth Here

September 13th, 2012
2:53 pm

Are all these coaches just crazy in college football? The spread works when you have that once in a lifetime player(i.e. Tebow, Newton) but nothing, and I mean nothing wears a team down and brings you multiple Championships like power football, Ask Alabama, LSU, The N,Y Giants, and the traditional powers like The Steelers, Cowboys, 49er’s, Nebraska, and them great Miami(college) teams. Power football is the way to go. Georgia can(YES I SAID IT) will be able to contend with the West champs this year. Like Missouri in the 4th quarter, other teams will eventually wear down. Dawg nation, there is only two teams that will stand in your way this year of that National Title. Unfortunately you’ve got to go through one of them. Gurley, Marshall, Malcolm and for Gods sake Mike Bobo can you line up Richard Samuels behind one of those Fullbacks and scare the hell outta some LB’s for four or five plays before you go play action. P.S. Dawg fans if you didn’t notice on the fake punt Missouri fried to run, Didn’t SAMUELS look good sheddind those blockers. Makes you wonder what he and jones would do together.

kauai dawg

September 13th, 2012
2:54 pm

The are balanced and can take what the D gives them. That is a GREAT advantage and was seen last week. We used the first half to get a feel for the game and then the O opened up.

Go DAWGS get ready and well rested for a tough stretch coming up.

HardTruth Here

September 13th, 2012
2:58 pm

Sorry about some of the misspellings, not the greatest typist. And I did forget to proof read to the smart A$$ who would’ve pointed that out/

Jerry Seinfeld

September 13th, 2012
2:58 pm

It all comes down to the blocking. Georgia has talent in the backfield, but they’ve got to block. Because no matter how good Gurley, Marshall or the others are if our guys are dominated at the line of scrimmage the way Boise and LSU dominated us our running backs aren’t going to be very effective. I hope the line improves as the year goes on, because they have a lot of room to grow. I sure wish Kolton Houston could play. But maybe the line will become a solid one with some more experience.

UGA Insider

September 13th, 2012
3:00 pm

I told you guys this summer UGA would try a power running game. Told you guys that Bobo had been installing the Pittsburgh offense. Told you guys Hines had been hanging around with Bobo for weeks. Nobody ever listens until it happens.

Does anyone else have any questions at this point?

Jerry Seinfeld

September 13th, 2012
3:00 pm

If our line was better last game, I think Murray would have taken more shots downfield. When your line can’t block effectively for the quarterback, it’s hard to want to call a deep pass because that requires several seconds for the guys to get downfield.

HardTruth Here

September 13th, 2012
3:01 pm

Don’t write Marshall off, it’s a reason they had him # 1 in the nation.

rhbDAWG1

September 13th, 2012
3:05 pm

Joe Jenkins – I’ve been watching UGA football (as well as other college, pro ang high school) for 56 years and you do not know what you are talking about. I also played line for 4 years (varsity) on a good Georgia high school team and I understand what it takes to develop an offensive line. I remember Johnny Griffith – do you?

UGA Insider

September 13th, 2012
3:06 pm

Also, Adams is in charge of suspensions and won’t tell the players about when they will return. That is why they are showing up on the depth chart every week. The staff has no idea. Sanders Comings had no idea what his situation was until last Thursday. Way to go Adams!!! You are a winner! Tree and Rambo still don’t have a clue.
.

AltamahaDawg

September 13th, 2012
3:07 pm

I have a question. I think you know what it is.

rhbDAWG1

September 13th, 2012
3:09 pm

HardTruth Here – Good insight – I think you’re right on all points.

flo-ri-duh

September 13th, 2012
3:16 pm

This week: number of carries for Gurley 8, Marshall 10, Samuel 10, Malcome 10 and backups 15. OL needs lots of work in the run game. Starters on OL will go about 25 minutes… same for defense. Expect Cummings and Vasser to not start but come in quickly as they need the work to catch up. Mitchell will play sparingly on defense and will go on offense about 10 plays. Then he will rest his ankle. More passes to the tight ends and RBs this week. Conley and Scott – Wesley
will play more this week at WR. They need to be included more in the offense. Six deep balls in this game and then work on the mid range passing. Special teams are much improve so far. No injuries and a “W” this week. Go Dawgs!

flo-ri-duh

September 13th, 2012
3:19 pm

Expect Cummings to practice exclusively at safety this week to prepare for Vandy and Tennessee – while Rambo is still out.

joe jenkins

September 13th, 2012
3:22 pm

No i don’t remember johnny…didn’t he coach one season and had a losing record doing so? I may not know what i’m talking about. But I do know championships are won on defense and right now we are last against the run… And we have a RT who couldnt block a dl from savannah st. Once again you are blinded by your homerism…All I know once again we don’t have all the pieces to win the mnc.

B

September 13th, 2012
3:24 pm

Love that picture. Looks like the Red Sea opening.

AltamahaDawg

September 13th, 2012
3:30 pm

There is probably a middle ground between national championship caliber, and not able to block Sav State.

joe jenkins

September 13th, 2012
3:48 pm

Yeah what is the middle ground smart ass? The point was i think theus is going to struggle against everybody that he has to block…including DL from small schools.. I bet he struggles with the owls.. please read between the lines next time….geez

joe jenkins

September 13th, 2012
3:50 pm

Hey B…are you that stupid that you couldn’t spell out a whole name?…So you just had settle for just writing one letter huh?

AltamahaDawg

September 13th, 2012
3:55 pm

Not having a good day, joe?

Ghruten

September 13th, 2012
4:03 pm

Good stuff. Please commit to not using the word utilize. Use works. Thanks and keep up the good work.

kydawg

September 13th, 2012
4:03 pm

I like the pitch to the back…it gets the ball in their hands a lot quicker. It drove me crazy last year watching our RB’s wait for the QB to run back to him to hand it off before he even gets started running; by then, here comes the backside pursuit = no hole to run in!!!

joe jenkins

September 13th, 2012
4:06 pm

I’m having a great day …thanks for asking…I just wish all of the mnc talk would quit till we see a O-line that doesn’t struggle against buffalo.and a defense that can stop the run on a regular basis…thanks

AltamahaDawg

September 13th, 2012
4:20 pm

yea , ALL that mnc talk everybody is doing.

Two to the shoe

September 13th, 2012
4:22 pm

Our two best rinning back are true freshmen and we have a patch work Oline that includes a new center that is undersized. All in all, I think the running game has been pretty darn good so far. Yes, if the Oline blocks better then we have the potential to break off some big runs. Marshall looks like a race horse that wants to run but cant get out of the gate. That’s timing. He either hits the hole too fast or too late. Once he gets a feel for it he”ll be a stud. Gurley needs to get at least 20 carries a game. He’s just that kind of back. The more he runs the better he gets. I’m just glad we have a running game again, no more midgets trying to run up the middle.

rhbDAWG1

September 13th, 2012
4:27 pm

Hello again JJ – Do you have any idea how a freshman gets experience (hint it takes more than two games). BTW Johnny Grffith coached three years – between Wally Butts and Vince Dooley.

GoDawgs

September 13th, 2012
4:41 pm

Well I am having a good day. I rarely comment but I thought I would thank AltamahaDawg. I always enjoy his thoughtful comments. I also enjoy DawginLex. Unfortunately there are just not enough bloggers who will just talk real football. Wish there was a Georgia site for real football fans. Sometimes this blog is like my seats at Sanford. Can’t remember the game, but we kept spreading out three wides and they moved over the strong safety, leaving 5 guys in the box. So we kept trying to run our TB up the middle because if he busted it, there was nothing but natural grass between him and the goaline. The idiot behind me is screaming against Bobo after the third run got stuffed. I turned and asked him if he saw how many guys were in the box and he had no idea what I was talking about. It just drives me crazy. By the way, I love our balance run/pass v Missouri and I loved our effort. Okay, I’ll shut up and not post again for six more months.

AltamahaDawg

September 13th, 2012
4:43 pm

Coach Richt tweeting out David’s new song. Not exactly my style, but pretty cool.

joe jenkins

September 13th, 2012
4:46 pm

okay thanks three seasons…but he had losing record overall right. Yeah you right it takes a while for a freshmen to gain experience unless you are truly talented. Which i dont think he is. It’s no mystery uga o-line has been bad for years and either its the talent or coaching you decide?

Dawg Haus

September 13th, 2012
4:50 pm

Joe, I see what you’re saying, but don’t throw Theus under the bus quite yet. The kid was playing at far from 100% last week and it was only his second career start. A lot is being asked of him and he’s stepping up and accepting the challenge. I was just as frustrated as anybody with the missed blocks and false starts against Missouri, but I knew it would be a rough transition when he was announced as a starter. The kid will develop into an outstanding tackle for the Dawgs, maybe even sooner than we think.

AltamahaDawg

September 13th, 2012
4:53 pm

Box? Huh? Whatcha mean? Did you see that stupid “call”.

I’ll never forget in a game a few years ago, this loudmouth was screaming at the coach every play that didn’t pick up a consecutive 1st down. (and we were winning pretty handlily). I could see this fellow sitting next to him had just about all he could take. Somebody broke a run and he was all in their face “look at coach go! Run Coach Bobo, run!”

Joey

September 13th, 2012
4:53 pm

“Before Bobo & Richt …. we owned the pitch”
*********************************
Toss sweep. That’s a little different play, but whatever works . . .

I always give credit where credit is due and I like how the offense looks this season. Not Bobo’s fault that Bennett dropped 3 passes – he is usually money. Not Bobo’s fault Murray was predictably “amped up” for almost a half. Not Bobo’s fault we dropped the ball and had half dozen false starts. Not Bobo’s fault the O-line was overwhelmed for a half.

My point is, the SCHEME worked, and we stuck to it and it finally (with JJ’s help) scored, and often.

If we clean up the penalties and and give Murray a Valium before games (just kidding) we will give good teams a fit this season. Lots of star-power on both sides of the ball.

AltamahaDawg

September 13th, 2012
4:56 pm

joe, is throwing the defense under the bus in the other blog, because, “they probabaly won’t shut out FAU, like Alabama, LSU, SC, and Florida would”. So he’s not picking on Theus.