Tuesday, December 10, 2013

2013 Looking Back … Passing Offense

There is no lack of documentation showing the love-hate-love affair I’ve had with Aaron Murray.  I was a skeptic, and a detractor, and a begrudging accepter…and then, as his Junior and Senior years progressed, a full-blooded appreciator of the man and the player who was Aaron Murray.  After he lost against UF in 2010, I told my friends…he won’t lose to them again.  Then, in the latter part of 2012, I felt he had finally shaken the “big game” bullshit off his back.  The bowl game would go on to prove it, as he turned around a lousy first half and lay a gutsy performance out on the ground, bringing us the win.

So, I came into 2013 very optimistic.

Then, the first play at Clemson.    Ugh.

Then, Tennesee.  Double Ugh.

So many guys went down, our sideline became a trauma center the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Superdome after Katrina.

But, we had some guys stand up and play some pretty good football.  We also got some guys back who were our leaders coming into the season.  Arthur Lynch returned from being banged up and finished the season strong, earning All-SEC honors.  That’s the guy we thought he’d be when we signed him.

Still, if you’d told me we’d lose Mitchell and Scott-Wesley for the season, as well as Conley, Bennet, Lynch and Rome for multiple games each - and yet we’d still finish as the Nation’s 16th ranked passing offense (and tied for 10th in yards per attempt), I’d have called you nuts.  In fact, I definitely wouldn’t have thought our passing game would drop by only 226 yards over the course of the year - and given our schedule strength, that’s pretty amazing.

So how’d we do it?

For starters, we added more throws to the running backs.  Last season, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall combined for a 27-208-1 line.  This season, Gurley himself improved on that greatly with 30 catches, 344 yards, and 5 TDs (with one game still to go, and no SECCG stats).  Also, by spreading the ball around (lack of experienced deep threat), we had more receivers in the 200-399 yard range than previously.  

Jonathan Rumph was much slower to come along than many had anticipated.  In fact, Reggie Davis far outproduced him in catches, yards, YPC, as well as games played.  Reggie may have shown himself to be one of our quality Deep Threats of the future. 

And of course, receivers need QBs to toss them the ball.  UGA had two very good signal callers this season.  

The sample size and competition was vastly different, but you have to love that from a Completion Percentage perspective, there was absolutely zero drop-from Murray to Mason.  Not a tenth of a percent.  Nada.  Not bad when you’re replacing the SEC’s all-time leading passer.  

Sadly, Murray never hit a 65% season…but 64.8 was an improvement on his 64.5 from 2012.

Overall, with a patchwork receiving corps and two very strong passers, Georgia had a very serviceable passing attack which bodes well for 2014 and beyond.  As we look to the future, in fact, we see that our top two producing receivers (Conley, Bennett) are back, as will be Davis and Malcolm Mitchell, providing deep threat opportunities for the vertically-minded Hutson Mason.  Receptions out of the backfield should continue to be a big part of our passing game, and the ol’ bread-and-butter play action looks to be there as well since our RB stable only gets stronger with the return of Keith Marshall and the addition of Chub and Michel.  

Even with the loss of Murray next season, I have a sneaking suspicion that the Richt/Bobo offense will continue to build on what it has done recently, and bring even more wins in 2014.  If only that defense will catch up……..

Go Dawgs.

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