Thursday, March 11, 2010

The CB's the thing...

Ok, as of yet, I have been unable to ascertain exactly what it is that the great teams under Richt have had, and the sorrier teams have lacked. I’ve looked at every position on the offense and come up empty, so here we are on the defensive side of the ball. Most fans have been whining and bellyaching about the defensive backs over the past few years, so that’s where I started. I came up empty with the Safeties, but I’m turning the microscope on the Corners today.

Corners are responsible for a great deal. They are the boundary protection. No runningback should ever get wider than a corner. It is the Corner’s job to either knock the ball carrier out of bounds, or turn him back to the teeth of the defense inside. Having strong run-support from your corners can be huge for your defense. Of course, we can’t forget what they are primarily responsible for – covering the most athletic passing-game playmakers on the opposing offense. The SEC is full of high-flying offenses, and if your Corners aren’t up to snuff, you’re going to suffer. So, just how productive HAVE the corners been?


So, as we look back over the years, we see that in 2002, UGA had six productive corners, with the bulk of the work being done by four. This is what I would expect, as UGA would have two starters and a nickel corner, then a few reserves. This is the kind of depth you want to see on a championship team. We see that in 2004, when UGA didn’t even win the East, there were only two corners who were labeled as “productive.” So, it seems that the more productive corners our team has, the better we play as a defense, right? The number went up to three in 2005, and UGA won the SEC. Strangely, the three in 2005 is lower than 2003’s total of five. Even more odd, for the past four years since UGA’s last SEC title, the Dawgs have consistently had five productive corners. Yet, the team’s performance has not been up to the level of the earlier years of Richt’s tenure. So, let’s look at how the CB performance is reflected against that of the entire defense.


For me, these numbers are a bit inconclusive. At first glance, we could easily say that the corners are making a much higher percentage of tackles in the past four years than in the championship era of Richt’s years. But, I have to wonder where that comes from. Look at the number of CB tackles in 2003. Compare that to the number of tackles in 2006-2008. They’re fairly similar. However, in 2006, the entire team made 60% of the tackles it did in 2003. I’ve already mentioned that the coaches changed the way tackles are tracked. So, you would think that the number would drop proportionately. However, if the number HAD dropped proportionately, the Corners would have made only 97 tackles in 2006. So, how do we compare? Well, the percentage of total team tackles is a pretty good indicator. In the early “glory” years, UGA CBs were making an average of 14.75% of the tackles. Over 2006-2009, that number jumps to an average of 20.2% per season. WOW. But wait…I notice that in 2004, the %age is at its lowest, and the number of productive CBs was also at its lowest. So, could it be that the sheer number of players making tackles is responsible for the higher percentage? Doubtful. Don’t forget that in 2002, UGA had six productive corners, its highest total out of the 8 tracked seasons.

So, why the uptick in tackling production out of corners? Well, some would point to the shift in the SEC towards more spread offenses, with more passing. Perhaps that’s a possibility. More passes being caught would definitely lead to more tackle opportunities for the corners. So then, I have to look at passes defended. Unfortunately, there are no statistics for how many times someone actually threw at Brandon Boykin or Asher Allen, but I can look into the pass breakup and INT numbers.


Well, there it is again…the anomaly. In 2003 and 2005, UGA has high pass-defense production from its Corners, and wins the East in 2003 and the SEC in 2005. But, then there’s 2002, when the Corners made the least impact on opponents’ passes, and the Dawgs won the SEC and finished with a 13-1 record. We do see, though, that since 2004, there has been a decline in passes broken up by corners. Interception numbers have been erratic, with no consistent trend whatsoever.

So, what do we know? Corners have been making more tackles over the past 4 seasons; however, they’ve pulled in less interceptions and knocked down fewer passes. I know I’m not the only Georgia fan who has constantly marveled at the open receivers in our defensive backfield. Is this because of lack of talent at Corner? It’s quite possible, although we have to remember that Paul Oliver, Tim Jennings and Asher Allen are all NFL Cornerbacks. In fact, they are all NFL cornerbacks on playoff teams. Prince Miller may very well join them in those ranks next month. So, I can’t say that it’s necessarily TALENT that is the issue.

At any rate, I can’t say that there’s strong statistical evidence to show the Cornerback is the Thing.

But my mind drifts back to those tackling percentage numbers. Why are the Corners making such a higher percentage of tackles over the last 4 years? That means some other group has to have decreased in that period. Could it be that the linebackers aren’t making the stops they need to? Gone are Kendrel Bell, Boss Bailey, Odell Thurman…did they leave a void in their wake? Could it be that the Linebacker is the thing?

Keep readin’.

Go Dawgs!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Safety's the Thing...

Hey Dawgfans!

Ok, last week we explored the offensive side of the ball in an attempt to discover what it is that in the main "thing" that UGA needs in order to secure another SEC championship, and be in line for a national title. After analyzing the statistical production on the offense, I couldn't find any statistical relevance between title seasons 2002(SEC),2003(SECE), 2005(SEC) nor during the worst of UGA's seasons, 2001,2006 and 2009. Of course, the old addage is, "Offense wins games, defense wins championships." So, I thought I'd look into the defense. Apparently, Coach Richt believes it HAS been the defense that has caused the decline in success at UGA. Being a former DL at UGA, I would love to start on the line, and analyze the first line of attack. But at the behest of "The Petis," whom very few of you know, but more of you should, I will be instead looking at the Safeties. We remember the ones during the title years for great hits, turnovers and just an "air of swagger." The safeties we've had as of late haven't seemed to live up to that. So, perhaps it IS the safeties that are hurting UGA.

First, let's look at the UGA defense's reliance on the safety position to make stops. The safety is the last line of defense between the line of scrimmage and the goal-line. If safeties are making a bunch of tackles, that means the rest of your defense may not be doing too well. And yes, I understand this is a broad generalization and does not take into account a more aggressive scheme where safeties play often on the line (as TD did). But, as a blogger, I reserve the right to use generalizations in order to make statistics agree with my opinion. Deal with it.

No data was available for 2001, apparently the statistics guy then wasn’t very good and was fired, because all of the subsequent seasons have adequate statistical coverage. I’ve mentioned previously my displeasure with 2001’s stats, and on the defensive side of the ball, they’re basically nonexistent. But, we must move on.

Tracking Safety production over the past 8 years, I included only those who registered at least 10 tackles. The way I see it, if you didn’t even register ten tackles over the course of the season, you weren’t a productive player…but were providing depth. Also, some tackle figures are likely inflated by special teams performance. Still, when I look at the raw data; I came up with the following results:

S. Jones9041321
T. Davis61439313
S. Jones117513552

*in 2007, Reshad Jones led all safeties in tackles, despite starting only two games. He was seen as the hot young talent who would grow into the next great safety at UGA. Many fans will remember his missed tackle against GT in 2008 for a long time, even though Jones made some good plays against GT in the 2009 win. Still, his 11 career interceptions put him only two behind the likes of Scott Woerner and Kirby Smart, two pretty decent defensive backs in GA’s history. Jones was also the first safety to hold the top position for three years, as in 2006, top returner Tra Battle was overshadowed by Kelin Johnson, and in 2007, Jones surpassed Johnson himself.

As for the groups, I see that in 2002, we had five productive safeties, then in 2003 and 2004, that number dropped. I expected to see the number increase again in 2005, our next SEC Championship season, but it didn’t. Instead, the number of productive safeties DROPPED to 3. In ’06, it was basically 2 as Williams’ tackles were primarily on special teams. In fact, after 2005, UGA didn’t have three truly productive safeties again until 2009, our worst season under Richt.

Of course, the raw number of tackles tells us very little. So, this little table shows team tackles by year, followed by the number accounted for by the safeties.


So, the first thing that jumps off the page is that the defense was making a LOAD more tackles in 2002 and 2003. I seem to recall, though, a statement made about a difference in the way tackling statistics were done. Basically, I think guys who got a hand a ball carrier as he went down were getting a half-tackle in those days. I’m not certain, but I believe it was something like that. You can’t blame Martinez for this one…BVG was still in charge in 2004.

Anyway, after looking at the data, we see that in 2002 and in 2005, Safeties accounted for a lower percentage of tackles than in 2003 and 2004, the non-SEC Championship years. However, in 2006, the safeties accounted for the same percentage of tackles as in 2005, but the results were very different. Then, in 2007, the percentage went back up to over 20% for the first time since 2004, and UGA won all but 2 games. Over the next two seasons, UGA’s safeties accounted for less tackles, but the team’s success went decidedly backward.

Of course, there is always the argument that UGA’s safeties made less tackles in the past few seasons because they were giving up more touchdowns. In response to that, they would have to have been responsible for 25 touchdowns in 2009 and 30 in 2008 in order for those “non tackles” to push the percentages back up to over the 2007 level.
But is it only tackles? The chart below tracks turnovers by the safeties over the years.

FUM REC4322212

It's really something, isn’t it? 11 turnovers in 2002, only 6 in 2005 – the low until awful 2009. Of course, I did notice that in 2009, there were also 15 pass break-ups by safeties. This means that the safeties positively affected 21 of the opposition’s passes. Compare that to 17 in 2002, and 13 in 2005. What does that mean? Well, the 2009 squad did a better job of intercepting passes than the 2005 guys did, and were only one short of the 2002 Safeties. But, they did a better job than both at defending passes that were playable. The sad part about this is, they were also in good position fewer times. SO, it appears the players did indeed have the ABILITY to make plays…yet they somehow didn’t get the job done in the eyes of the viewer as well as we would have liked.

Still, however you slice it up, it’s clear that there is no statistical evidence linking Safety performance to either championships or awful seasons. Simply put, the Safety ain’t the thing. But, I’m not letting the defensive backs off that easily. I seem to remember people complaining a great deal about the DBs in total, and there’s still another position group out there. Perhaps if Asher Allen hadn’t bolted for the NFL, or perhaps if Bryan Evans had been moved to safety earlier, perhaps then our defenses would have had more success.

Maybe, just maybe, the CORNERBACK is the thing!

We’ll see. Go Dawgs.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The WR's the thing...

Ok, well, we're running out of offensive position groups to label as "The Thing" we need in order to find a championship at UGA. I don't know why it never occurred to me before...the wideouts! Remember 2001? Mark Richt, the hot-commodity OC from FSU comes to UGA, and with him he brings the high-flying FSU offense. Within two years he delivers a 13-1 season and an SEC title. It HAS to be the wideouts, right? Let's take a look.

YearWR YardageTeam Yardage%WR TD

Hmm....what do we see? Well, there was certainly a marked increase in WR production from 2001-2002. That's what I'd expect to see going from an 8-4 season to a 13-1 championship year. The following season saw UGA win the SEC East again, but with lower WR production. Well, we could possibly surmise that this would happen...less production = less success, right? In fact...WR production decreased steadily from 2002-2006. Wait, what about 2005? Wasn't that a TITLE year?

Indeed it was! But somehow, it was also the year that the wideouts had their second-worst outing of the Richt era. 2006, the 9-4 "Qb break-in" year for Stafford was the worst. Now, that was a surprise for me, as you'd think the kid with the big arm would go to his wideouts most often....then you have to remember that he threw thirteen interceptions that season. I don't recall each one of those interceptions, but even if every one of them had been a WR catch, it still would be their least productive year.

So what was going on in the WR corps? Well, to find that out, we really should look a little deeper. We have to break down not only the GROUP, but the individuals as well.

So, now we see what might have caused the the numbers to decline over the period from 2003-2006. Every year, we were losing top producers, and less and less receivers stepped in to fill the void. This next table illustrates that point.

Year# of Receivers# of 20-catch Receivers

In 2002, UGA had 5 different receivers who caught twenty passes or more (from here on in, I'll use the mark of 20 catches as defining a "productive" receiver). Over the next two years, that number decreased and UGA was less successful. In 2003, Edwards was gone, and WR prodction dropped from 82% of the passing offense to 69%...Greene used his RBs and TEs more in the passing game, but Reggie Brown and Damian Gary's increased production couldn't make up for the loss of Edwards and the decline in production by (injury prone) Fred Gibson. Then, in 2004, Gary and Michael Johnson graduated. Sean Bailey more than doubled his production, but the void was too difficult to fill.

So what in the world happened in 2005? Well, to put it simply, Leonard Pope happened. He stepped up to "superstar" level and was the team-leading Tight End. Freshman sensation Mohamed Massaquoi led the wideouts, followed by sure-handed Bryan McClendon.

Then came 2006, McClendon and Pope had graduated but MoMass was already a star, and he apparently had a solid supporting cast in Bailey, Harris, Raley and former QB, AJ Bryant. But, the rotating-door at QB prevented any kind of rhythm in the outside passing game, and the numbers fell to their lowest of the Richt era. Only Massaquoi proved himself to be consistently productive, though Kenneth Harris showed he could be a major deep threat, averaging over twenty yards per catch.

Ok, so we were looking forward to the next few years, certainly...Stafford would grow into his role as the starter, and things would really turn up...right? Not really. Though the wideouts beceame much more active in 2007 and 2008 (the 3rd and 2nd best WR production of the '00s respectively), the team underachieved. Both teams featured two primary receivers and a much less productive supporting cast. True in 2008, Moore did pass the 20-catch mark, grabbing 29, but that paled in comparison to the 50+ grabbed by each MoMass and Green.

Then of course, there was 2009. At its third-lowest production of the Richt years, the WR corps seemed to be seeking its identity. Green was a proven playmaker, and Michael Moore had shown himself to be solid, but the supporting cast was young, and seeking its way. On the plus sides, King's production increased dramatically. Israel Troupe caught the same number of passes as in 2008, but his per-catch average more than doubled. Green's numbers were down, but he missed parts of 6 games due to injuries...and still had the sixth-best season production for a UGA wideout under Richt.

OK, ok, ok....I've been rambling for a while now. What we're trying to decide is..."Is WR the thing that results in championships at UGA?" Looking at the stats, I can't say it is. The play of wideouts in the two SEC Title years are FAR from similar, and in Richt's initial 8-4 season, the wideouts produced at a higher level than in the 11-2 season of 2007. In my eyes, I can't say that the WR is the thing. Sorry.

I CAN say this, going into 2010, UGA has an All-American candidate as its #1 wideout, and will have support from Senior Kris Durham who's numbers have improved every year, Junior Tavarres King who showed MAJOR strides in his sophomore campaign, and Rontavious Wooten who filled in as a nice deep-threat option at times last season. If Marlon Brown and Israel Troupe can step up and be decent bench players, it's likely that the Bulldogs will have solid production out of four or maybe five receivers this season, depending on QB play (which we've already decided ISN'T the thing). Then again, if it weren't for fifteen interceptions on the part of Joe Cox, there may have been three or four "productive" wideouts in 2009.

So, this series continues to drag on, seeking its answer. Just what IS it that defines the championships at UGA? It appears that the answer won't be on the offensive side on the ball. Of course, the main thing preventing UGA from success over the past few years (in the eyes of most fans, and most recently HC Mark Richt) has been the defense. What has been the most maligned part of the defense as of late, and what part of the defense produced more than a few NFL names in the early 2000's? That'd be the secondary. Who's the last-line of defense in the secondary, the guys who are supposed to stop scores AT ALL COST? THE SAFETIES!

Maybe that's it. We give up too many points lately because of poor safety play! Could it be that the Safety is the thing that leads to a title in Athens?

Stay tuned.

Go Dawgs!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The TE's the thing...

Many Georgia fans have championed the re-appearance of the receiving tight-end at UGA. They are excited about players like Aron White and Orson Charles who like to go out and actually CATCH PASSES. These fans whip themselves into a frenzy because the receiving tight-end makes the offense more dynamic. It forces the defense to cover the whole field, and gives a troubled quarterback more options to make plays.

In short, some folks seem to believe that the Tight End is the thing that makes the offense most effective. They remember stand-out players like Ben Watson and Leonard Pope, and the success our offense had when they were playing as opposed to the lack of success we had when players like Tripp Chandler were leading the charge at end. So, I did more diggin'...let's take a look, shall we?

(Oh, and by the way, let me say this: I'm tired of the 2001 statbook at It's not very user-friendly at all, and has no season statistics. So, I have to go through, game-by-game and come up with figures for 2001. After three position groups, I'm really FED-UP with it!)

YEAR Players Catches YDS AVG TD

2001 McMichael 28 328 11.7 1
Watson 9 170 18.9 1

2002 Watson 31 341 11.0 3

2003 Watson 23 324 14.1 2
Brannon 4 43 10.8 0
Pope 1 21 21.0 0
Milner 1 15 15.0 0

2004 Pope 25 482 19.3 6
Milner 4 77 19.3 0

2005 Pope* 39 541 13.9 4
Milner 14 291 20.8 2

2006 Milner* 30 325 10.8 3
Chandler 2 37 18.5 1

2007 Chandler 21 283 13.5 2
Figgins 3 24 8.0 1

2008 Chandler 5 58 11.6 1
White 3 88 29.3 2
Figgins 2 32 16.0 2

2009 Charles 23 374 16.3 3
White 13 198 15.2 4
Lynch 2 17 8.5 0

* Denotes Team-leader at receiver.

So, those are the numbers. What can we take from them? Well, it's easy to see why folks remember Watson and Pope. Watson is the only Tight-End in the MR era to be the ONLY tight-end catching passes for an entire season, and Pope was the team's receiving leader in 2005. Those who've forgotten about Milner have most likely done so simply because he was overshadowed by Pope, then he was the best-thing-going for our passing game in a bad 2006 season. But, the numbers also show why folks would LOVE to forget about Tripp Chandler's stint as the #1 at TE. In the years with him there, tight ends saw less and less production, dropping from the top of the receiver list to #3, and then to #9 his senior year.

That's right, in 2008, our starting tight-end had less receptions than eight other players on the team. I could see fourth, maybe..if we had two amazing wideouts (which we did in 2008) and a great receiving backfield. But honestly....ninth? Wow. I can't help but believe that if Stafford had found a way to incorporate the tight-end a bit more, a couple of those games might have had different results. Then again, you can only throw to the talent that's on the field...and Sadly for UGA, Tripp Chandler was not a banner Tight-End. He wasn't a clutch receiver, dropping too many important passes, and wasn't the most fleet-of-foot. That is why his production dropped so sharply between his junior and senior years. In fact, the other TE to play both 2007 and 2008, Figgins, saw an uptick in production in total yards, ypc, and touchdowns...notably, both of Figgins' 2008 catches were TDs. Chandler is one of only two TEs throughout the Mark Richt era to see a solid decline in production between their Junior and Senior years, with the other being Ben Watson. Watson, though, suffered more from new additions of solid TEs Pope and Milner. Chandler didn't. Chandler was in Stafford's 3rd year, and should have greatly improved on his 21-catch Junior campaign. He did not.

Looking further into the stats, 2009's 38 catches were second only to the championship season of 2005 when TEs hauled in a whopping 53 passes. And, the innaugural Richt year was only one behind 2009, with 37. The magical 2002 13-1 season? 31.

Also an interesting 2009, the TEs caught more TD passes than in any other year of the Richt era.

Some would say, though...that the yardage and catches and all don't make an argument for how important the TEs actually are to the team. Take, for instance, 2006. Milner led the team in receiving, but we were 9-4. A year prior, Pope had led the team in receiving, and UGA finished 10-3 with an SEC Title. Some folks would say...those two seasons are only a loss apart, pretty close, right? Wrong.

Two things to 2005, UGA went 9-2 in an 11-game season, then went 1-1 in the post-season, winning the SEC but losing the sugar bowl. In 2006, UGA went 8-4 in a 12-game season and then won its bowl. This means that in the season, UGA won 81% in 2005 compared to 67% in 2006. Not even close.

Speaking of percentages, I thought it might add some fuel to the argument about tight-ends if I included the comparison of TE receiving yards to Total receiving yards.


2001 498 2974 16.7
2002 341 3435 9.9
2003 403 3435 11.7
2004 559 2978 18.8
2005 832 2977 27.9
2006 362 2397 15.1
2007 307 2579 11.9
2008 178 3610 4.9
2009 589 2615 22.5

According to the numbers, tight-end production is definitely on the upswing...I say this not because the numbers show a trend upwards over the past FEW years, but simply because they show a volatile JUMP upwards last season, and the statistical trend for TEs at UGA is for them to get better as they get older (Chandler being the one glaring exception). In 2010, the TEs have two rising juniors, and two rising sophomores. We should see very good production out of this position for the next couple of years. But, I'm not sure that the TE is what brings us a title.

You see, with these stats we find something interesting. The 2002 year had the second lowest percentage output by tightends of all nine years. The "raw catches" ranking would place 2002 squarely at the middle of the pack (5th), but the percentage of total passing offense shows that in UGA's BEST season, we relied almost as little as possible on the tight end. Then, however, we go to 2005 and see that in UGA's second-best year (ranked so simply because of the SEC title) the Tight-ends were utilized FAR AND AWAY more than in any other Richt season. We can also see the impact that play-making wideouts like Massaqoui and Green (and even better, the combo of the two in 2008) have on tight-end production - especially when you have a QB that likes to go deep.

Which, I suppose begs the question....could it be that the WR is the thing?

I'll look into that.

Go Dawgs.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The RB's the thing...

Yesterday I explored the hypothesis that UGA's success by-and-large depends on the quarterback play. I found this hypothesis to hold no statistical water. So, I'm doing a bit more snooping around. I mean, our offense is a pro-style offense. Perhaps that's the key word that should have tipped me off from the very beginning. When you're drafting your fantasy teams, who is the most important player? It's the RB, right? Generally people like to pick a solid RB to be the foundation of their fantasy football team (and no, this is NOT an endorsement of fantasy football). Our offensive success is predicated on the ability to run the football well, as everything else (play-action, screen game, etc) is built off of it. So, definitely, the RB is the key position that MUST perform well in order for our offense to succeed. Right?

Well, let's look at some numbers. Below I've put together a list of the annual rushing leaders at UGA, and the results of the season.

2001 Verron Haynes 691 7TD 8-4
2002 Musa Smith 1324 8TD 13-1, SEC E, SEC C
2003 Michael Cooper 673 6TD 11-3, SEC E
2004 Thomas Brown 875 8TD 10-2
2005 Thomas Brown 736 4TD 10-3 SEC E, SEC C
2006 Kregg Lumpkin 798 6TD 9-4
2007 Knowshon Moreno 1334 14TD 11-2
2008 Knowshon Moreno 1400 16TD 10-3
2009 Washaun Ealy 717 3TD 8-5

Ok, so, looking at the numbers of the LEADING rusher doesn't appear to give us any great insight into whether rushing matters. In terms of yardage, Cooper's 2003 SEC East Title year is the lowest of all nine years, yet the Dawgs were in position to win the SEC. Knowshon put up more than double that in the disappointing 2008 campaign. Of course, I have to remember...Georgia hasn't featured a single-back exclusively for all nine years, so perhaps if I just go back and look at the RUSHING GAME totals, I'll get a clearer picture...

Rushes Yards YPA TD Result
2001 471 1936 4.1 17 8-4
2002 536 1954 3.6 18 13-1, SEC E, SEC C
2003 562 1889 3.4 22 11-3, SEC E
2004 463 1882 4.1 16 10-2
2005 455 2108 4.6 16 10-3, SEC E, SEC C
2006 426 1526 3.9 21 9-4
2007 509 2305 4.5 32 11-2
2008 426 1928 4.5 21 10-3
2009 443 2093 4.7 17 8-5

So again, very little light can be shed by looking at these numbers. UGA's best year had some of its lowest rushing numbers. The only five-loss season had the 3rd highest rushing yardage total, and highest per-carry average. Now, I can already hear those of you who want to say that 2009's numbers are deceiving because of Branden Smith's success running reverses...but, I submit two things to you on that:

1st, Branden Smith isn't the only WR in the past 9 years to run the reverse for our offense...he's just the first to look REALLY good doing it.

2nd, Rushing statistics factor in Sacks as well, so they're not truly a measure of the RBs SPECIFICALLY. How would we find THAT? breaking down INDIVIDUAL RUSHING STATS for each RB each year.

This ought to be fun. For the record, I'm only going to go with Tailbacks who had over 50 carries in a season to track this. Player-Yards-Avg-TD

2001 Haynes 691 5.5 7 Smith 541 4.7 6 Sanks 338 4.0 0
2002C Smith 1324 5.1 8 Milton 314 3.8 0
2003E Cooper 673 4.3 6 Lumpkin 523 4.7 6 Browning 286 3.7 2 Powell* 276 5.4 3
2004 Brown 875 5.1 8 Ware 692 5.0 4
2005C Brown 736 5.0 4 Ware 492 4.9 1 Lumpkin 335 5.1 3
2006 Lumpkin 798 4.9 6 Ware 326 4.0 3 Brown 256 4.1 1
2007 Moreno 1334 5.4 14 Brown 779 5.3 10
2008 Moreno 1400 5.6 16 King 247 4.0 1
2009 Ealy 717 5.7 3 King 594 5.2 7 Samuel 395 4.5 3

I put an asterisk by Ronnie Powell because many of you probably have no idea who he is. Powell was a back-up DB when I was at UGA. We played on the Defensive Scout Team together. He made the move to Runningback, and amazingly, saw enough action as a deep reserve to get 51 carries, and qualify for this list. Way to go, Ronnie!

Those who want to take away from the 2009 running game based solely on Branden Smith should realize that the backs who qualified for the list in 2009 gained more yards than those in 2008, and had a higher per-carry average.

I found it interesting that the always-steady Danny Ware could never be better than second-best, though in 2004, he got 8 starts to Brown's 3. Brown and Lumpkin flip-flopped between the first and third places, basically because of injuries at different parts of their careers. Ware, though, was a solid #2 every year that he played.

Any way that you slice it, 2007 was the most productive season from a RB standpoint, but the TEAM failed to achieve. Many die-hard Georgia fans love to bring up the 11-2 record, and the whipping of Hawaii in order to make themselves feel better about themselves. But, the fact remains...for all the "ranked victories" at the end of the season, Georgia found itself without a title.

Still, it's hard to say whether a one-back or multi-back system is best. We've won an SEC title with each. We've also had under-performing years with each. Those fans who think Caleb King should be shuffled off to the bench so that Ealy can be allowed to run rough-shod all over the field should look again at the numbers. Ealy has a bunch of yards...King has a bunch of scores. They could be a very effective two-headed monster.

But, either way, I don't think you can say that the RB is where a championship lies.

Go Dawgs

Monday, March 1, 2010

The QB's the thing...

It's no secret to most Georgia fans that the success of this offense is centered around the QB play, right? That's why all the attention is being paid to the three (read: TWO) guys who will soon be gutting it out to win the coveted role of signal caller. The QB directs the offense, changes plays, distributes the football, carries out the play-action, etc. Without stellar QB play, UGA can NOT succeed, correct?

I don't know.

I did some digging this morning, thinking about that specific thing. Actually, it began like this: I was looking in the stat book to remind myself that Joe T actually had to throw some passes in his junior season after Shockley went down, and I noticed Shockley's Completion percentage for 2005 being what I would consider LOW. Strangely, we won the SEC that season. So, I decided to delve further into the stats to see if this was a strange anomaly or if the success of the QB has far less to do with the success of the team than I had previously thought.

My findings:

2001 Greene 59.1 9 8-4
2002 Greene 57.5 8 13-1, SEC C
2003 Greene 60.3 11 11-3, SEC E
2004 Greene 58.5 4 10-2
2005 Shockley 55.8 5 10-3, SEC C
2006 Stafford 52.7 13 9-4
2007 Stafford 55.7 10 11-2
2008 Stafford 61.4 10 10-3
2009 Cox 55.9 15 8-5

So, what can we infer from this? Not a whole heck of a lot. Many UGA fans are going into the 2010 season thinking that the hopes and dreams of the season rest on the shoulders of whatever quarterback is in the system, and in some ways that may be true. But, I can not find a direct correlation between quarterback statistics and championships at UGA.

I do find it interesting that Richt's two most celebrated QBs, Greene and Stafford had eerily similar responses following their most successful (team-wise) seasons. 2003 and 2008 were similarly-hyped teams. In '03, UGA was riding a 13-1 2002 season in which they finished near the top of the polls (#3). In '08 UGA was the preseason #1 after destroying Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl to finish 11-2 and #2 in the polls. In both of those subsequent outings, the UGA QBs completed the highest percentage of passes in their careers. Both were three-loss seasons with no title. Strange.

I also noticed that the two one-year guys had similar performances in terms of completion percentage. In fact, they had similar seasons in yardage (Shock- 2588 Cox 2584) and TDs (24 each) as well. The difference? Cox threw 3 times as many INTs (15 v 5) as Shockley. Shockley led his team to an SEC Crown. Cox led his team to an abysmal 8-5 finish. So, we can surmise that keeping the turnovers low is key. Well, that'd be grand, except for the fact that in 2004, David Greene threw 20 TDs and only 4 INTs....and UGA didn't even win the SEC East. Statistics, they can be baffling.

I do find it particularly annoying that only twice in nine years has our leading passer been able to crest 60% for the season. Maybe, though, that's just a thing at UGA. Stafford's '08 outing rests at #4 on the all-time highest completion % list at UGA. Who's #1? His coach, Mike Bobo, who completed 65% of his passes in 1997. In fact, only 4 Georgia quarterbacks since 1959 have been able to get above 60.78%. Bobo, Eric Zeir, Stafford and (No, not David Greene) Hines Ward make up a list of notable names.

Ok, ok, now, what of it? What could all of this mean? Why did I spend time writing this blog?

To be honest, I did it just because I was curious about the facts myself, and once I look into something, I figure I might as well share it. I think if Murray or Metts can have even an AVERAGE year (which under the 2001-2009 standards would mean a 57.43 completion with 9 interceptions), UGA will be much improved. Of course, according to my earlier findings, there's absolutely no statistical evidence to support that hypothesis. What I do believe the Stats show, is that over a prolonged starting career, the QBs at UGA do develop well. Greene improved, as did Stafford, it's all about experience on the field.

As I posted the other day, UGA enters 2010 with very little on-the-field experience. What that tells me is this, if we want to get the most out of Metts and Murray, one of them needs to be the starter. If they sit behind Logan Gray for two seasons, we'll have a season of inexperienced QB play in 2010, one year of improved QB play in 2011, and then back to inexperience in 2012 (and again in 2013 or 2014 depending on attrition). Don't get me a wrong...I'm a fan of the two-year starter system (a kid who starts as a junior and senior, and is followed by another junior). If a team can maintain that rotation, they're in good position because every other year, they have a senior QB with plenty of game experience. However, UGA in the past decade has gone the route of the long-tenured QB. I don't know that 2010 is the year or that Logan Gray is the man to change that.

Oughtta be interesting to see.

Go Dawgs.