Posted: 10:27 am Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Does Georgia really need to play five tailbacks against Clemson? 

By Bill King

When Georgia has the ball, do we really want to see Todd Gurley on  the sideline? (John Kelley / UGA)

When Georgia has the ball, do we really want to see Todd Gurley on the sideline? (John Kelley / UGA)

By all accounts, Georgia’s Todd Gurley, a Heisman Trophy candidate considered by many to be the best college running back in the country, is fully healthy, in the best shape of his career and rarin’ to go, carrying a full load against the Clemson Tigers.

Assuming his coaches let him stay on the field, that is.

While I understand the fascination on the part of both fans and coaches with highly touted freshmen Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, I’m a bit concerned about all this talk about playing all five tailbacks against Clemson.

Now, when offensive coordinator Mike Bobo first said last week that all five will play, he indicated that was because “all five are on special teams,” adding: “Offensive snaps, that’s still to be determined.”

I took that to mean Gurley will start, Keith Marshall will spell him and Brendan Douglas might get a shot with fresh legs late in the game like last year against South Carolina, while Chubb and Michel will get their feet wet playing special teams, not carrying the ball, unless the game turns into an unlikely blowout.

As Bobo noted of Gurley, “You feel like if you have a difference-maker as a skill guy … you want to try to get that guy [who] can make a difference in the game as many touches where he can make an impact.”

But then, at Tuesday’s press conference, Mark Richt muddied the waters a bit. After saying Chubb and Michel definitely will play in the game, he was asked how third-stringer Douglas fits into the crowded backfield and he responded:

“Brendan knows what to do. He’s a very physical runner and good pass protector. He’ll have a role throughout the season. I don’t know exactly what is going to happen this game as far as his playing time, or the two freshmen’s [playing time] for that matter. I am not really sure how much those guys will get, but Gurley is the starter, Keith is the number two guy, and the other guys are ready to play and my guess is that they’ll play. They’ll play special teams for sure and my guess is that they will probably get some scrimmage downs as well.”

Sorry, but unless Georgia has the game firmly in hand and Dabo Swinney has taken off the headset (considering most expect a tight game, how likely is that?), the Dogs need Gurley on the field as much as possible. And, if the coaches are worried about wearing him out, there’s Marshall, another proven commodity and scoring threat.

No matter how talented the incoming freshmen are, if they’re in the game at tailback, that means the best running back in the country is on the sideline. And, assuming Gurley is not hurting or worn out, like he was during the bowl game against Nebraska, that doesn’t make sense.

We saw in that Gator Bowl loss what can happen when the team’s best player is kept out of the game, as Georgia whiffed on several red-zone opportunities minus No. 3. Frankly, I thought at the time (and still do) that Bobo would have done better to keep even a tired Gurley in that game.

I think back to last year’s Tech game and the way the Dogs won it: by simply putting the ball in Gurley’s hands again and again.

I fully expect Chubb and Michel to have their days in the sun as Georgia’s star running backs. But this Saturday should be Todd Gurley’s day.

SERIES EXPERT PREVIEWS GEORGIA-CLEMSON

georgia-clemson flagNobody follows Georgia-Clemson with quite the intensity of UGA fan Kyle King, author of the book about the series, “Fighting Like Cats and Dogs.” So I asked Kyle (no relation) for his thoughts on Saturday’s matchup. Providing a bit of historical perspective, here’s what Kyle came up with …

With both the Bulldogs and the Tigers breaking in new starting quarterbacks this season, it’s a pretty safe bet that Clemson and Georgia won’t open the 2014 campaign with a repeat of last year’s shootout. Of course, the 2013 series meeting between the Classic City Canines and the Fort Hill Felines was the highest-scoring game in the 117-year history of the rivalry, so it isn’t exactly going out on a limb to predict that fans aren’t in for a rerun of last autumn’s 38-35 result.

Clemson and Georgia began the 2013 season by combining for 73 points, shattering the previous high water mark of 59 total points scored in a single meeting. The Tigers’ 38 points were the second-most ever scored by the Orange and Purple against the Red and Black, falling just short of the 39 points put up by John Heisman’s inaugural Clemson club against Georgia in 1900. For the first time in series history, the losing team scored more than 28 points.

Kyle King's "Cats and Dogs" covers the best years of the Georgia-Clemson series.

Kyle King’s “Cats and Dogs” covers the best years of the Georgia-Clemson series.

Although the offensive output was atypical, the final result really wasn’t. The 2013 game marked the 12th confrontation in the rivalry’s past 18 outings to be settled by a touchdown or less, and it was the third clash in the two teams’ past four encounters with one another to be resolved by 3 or fewer points. It has been the case fairly consistently since Charley Pell’s Tigers took down the defending SEC champion Bulldogs between the hedges in 1977 that, when these neighboring programs square off on the gridiron, a close contest is to be expected.

That probably is good news for a Georgia squad in transition from Aaron Murray and Todd Grantham, who both set records during their days in Athens, but with only one of them doing it in a good way. A deep and experienced Clemson defensive line will present the Red and Black offensive front with a stiff challenge, and a thin and untried Bulldog secondary will be tested by a fast-paced Tiger attack. A Georgia victory won’t require a Vince Dooley-style point total to show up on the scoreboard, but it will depend upon keeping the game close heading into the fourth quarter the way Erk Russell’s teams specialized in doing.

In that respect, two Georgia players are nearly certain to shoulder more than their fair share of the load on Labor Day weekend. Last year, a muffed Georgia field goal try provided the margin of defeat for the Bulldogs; Marshall Morgan, who went 47 for 47 on extra point tries and 22 for 24 on field goal attempts in 2013, is likely to play a key role in the latest clash in a series that often has been settled by long kicks late in games.

Likewise, as goes Todd Gurley, so go the Red and Black. A year ago, Gurley rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries in a losing effort in Death Valley, but he is apt to be an even more critical cog in the Bulldog offense as Georgia looks to establish the run against a Clemson club that ranked third in the ACC in total defense in 2013. Unless the ground game gets going, Hutson Mason will be in for a long night in his first home start.

Speaking of home, if there is anywhere that Georgia enjoys a clear advantage over Clemson, it is in the venue. The Bulldogs are 19-2 all-time over the Tigers in Sanford Stadium, and the Red and Black have never lost a night game to the Orange and Purple Between the Hedges. Those are promising indicators, as a 1-0 start would bode well for the Bulldogs in 2014: Georgia has opened the season at home against Clemson three times in the last century, in 1946, 1982 and 2002.

All three seasons saw the Athenians beat the South Carolinians to kick off the campaign … and all three seasons saw Georgia finish the fall as the SEC champion.

Thanks, Kyle! Let’s hope the history you describe there at the end repeats itself.

THE GEORGIA WAY

If you haven’t yet checked out “The Georgia Way,” the latest UGA “spirit” video by talented filmmaker Frank Martin, give it a look. It does a beautiful job of summing up why so many of us love the University of Georgia!

Go Dogs!

JUNKYARD MAIL CALL

Got something you want to discuss concerning UGA athletics? Or a question for the Junkyard Blawg? Email junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

Find me on Facebook.

Follow me on Twitter.

— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

40 comments
DawgVoiceofReason
DawgVoiceofReason

Wow!  SC blown out, Ole Miss looked terrible for 3 quarters and the Commodores dropped anchor on their feet. Anchor down, indeed!  An SEC team losing to Temple.  That's *almost* unheard of by anyone still alive.

HotDawg
HotDawg

Where's that explosive offense Hugh Freeze was supposed to bring to ole miss?

3rd quarter still, but ole miss may lose their game. Looks like same old ole miss.

"Experts" screwed up on SC (hahahahahaha).

Seems like they've overrated ole miss too.

DawginCO
DawginCO

I really don't care who wins the SC -A&M game.  I wish they could both lose.  What I really want is for SC to get beat up.  Have their confidence shaken.  If that requires A&M to win, then so be it. 

HotDawg
HotDawg

That was the music SC chose to open up for the kickoff????? Excuse me for not being politically correct, but that music was gay.

Go Texas A & M

DawginCO
DawginCO

Bill,  Gurley was not at full speed in the bowl game.  In fact, if you'll remember, we failed to get a critical 3rd down conversion because he just couldn't get to the corner.  It was wet and sloppy and he looked slower than I've ever seen him on that play.  He wasn't our best option that day late in the game.

GloryBetweenTheHedges
GloryBetweenTheHedges

I would be upset if we didn't win this game by atleast double digits. I will gladly take a one point win in Columbia though. Go Dawgs! GATA

MAJ DAWG
MAJ DAWG

UGA will defeat Clemson Saturday. We will be competitive against SC, and have chance to win. Barring significant injuries to key players, we will be either undefeated or have one loss going into the FLA game and November. Go you HAIRY DAWGS, and send the felines back to their litter on the farm. UGA UGA UGA

HotDawg
HotDawg

Hey guys, how about letting them actually play a game in 2014 before knocking the line, coaching, etc.

I know your sharpening the blades to slice and dice. Or drooling at the bit to criticize every little detail.

You just have a little more credibility if you wait to see the game(s) first.

C-Kirk
C-Kirk

They will play all five because they promised they wouldn't just sit the Freshmen when they were Recruited but look for Mason to throw and complete more screen passes and dumps out of the backfield in the first 6 games than Murray was able to do in the entire four years he was in charge. That is truly a weapon that we will now be able to use because the QB's height will not be a problem. 

DirtyDawg
DirtyDawg

Gettin antsy about how this thing will play out...and I don't just mean this game. As much as I'd like to believe we're gonna be 'much' better than last year - injuries and all - I keep hearing just how much better, virtually, everybody else will be as well. That damned Spurrier has his 'cat that swallowed the canary' look and attitude on - big time...Florida's gonna be a surprise...along with Missouri...Auburn's luck wasn't just luck...hell, even the Mississippi teams think they're gonna win the west (they've probably already got a copyright on their '14 video 'How The West Was Won'...and, of course, Alabama's still 'better than everybody'. Maybe those that are sayin that 'parity' very well may be the word that the 'pundits' (is 'pun' the origin of that label? If so it appears that all they do is try to think of something 'cute' to say) use to describe this coming season. If so, we very well may find that the SEC winner will have two losses and the Conference won't make the FFF (Football Final Four)...then what will we do? Call for the return for the BCS?

PigIron
PigIron

"Does Georgia really need to play five tailbacks against Clemson?"


Yes, but at least two of them will probably be playing on the kickoff and punt coverage teams. Hope they can tackle.

ColumbusDawg
ColumbusDawg

I agree with C-Kirk about easing up when they build a lead. I don't think it has anything to do with Bobo, I thnk it is the pansy Richt worrying that he is hurting somebody's wittle feelings. His boss Bobby Bowden did not mind running up the score if he had the chance. You did not see FSU letting up on Clemson last year did you? It is of my opinion that the job description of the head coach of a major college football program is to do EVERYTHING he can within NCAA rules to put his team in position to win a title. I just hope to see a team take the field on Saturday that is prepared from top to bottom, and does not look as if it has never played a game of football before like the 2013 team looked at Clemson. Reggie Davis said that the coaches were paying attention to "All the little details this year". Why in the hell have they not been paying attention before now? To me, that is grounds for dismissal for every coach that is guilty of this accusation. Personally,I believe that the Dawgs win this one by 10 to 14 points, as they should. Now, that being said, I'll take a one point win at Columbia all day long.

C-Kirk
C-Kirk

Too many times in the past , Georgia gets a two touchdown lead and then go into a conservative mode. I hope if nothing else Richt and Bobo changes that behavior , admit it doesn't work  and develop the behavior of " sticking with what got you there"  the whole game until they actually prove they have adjusted and are now stopping you. 

dave87
dave87

It should be the Gurshall show but it would be wise getting the freshmen some game time experience. I would expect Gurshall to go pro after the season and it would smart to have battle tested backs at the start of next season.

HotDawg
HotDawg

I've only counted on one RB, ever, to be able to carry it 30-40 times a game, for a full season. Without getting winded or letting an injury bring him down. He never let us down and always seemed to get stronger as the game progressed.

The best running back in the history of college football. The legendary Herschel Walker.

As Herschel famously said "the ball ain't heavy".

HotDawg
HotDawg

1) Let the flow of the game dictate who plays when and in what capacity.

2) I'm not sold on Gurley's durability. He has never shown he has been able to "carry the load" consistently for any length of time.

The wonderful thing is we don't need him to with our depth. Take advantage of all our weapons. Let's say TG is able to pound it 30 times against Clemson and another 25 times against SC. Do we need to take a chance on burning him out for the long season or worse tweaking a recurring injury? When we have a stable of backs that can help him with a few less carries and possibly as much production.

I am simply going off TG's history of nagging injuries and also being winded quite a few times.

On the other hand, if we keep moving the ball with him in the game and he is not slowing down or getting hurt. By all means let him have his day. I would say the same if it were Marshall, Douglas, or the 2 freshmen.

Again, let the game dictate the decision.

Just keep in mind, to save their legs for crucial games later in the season also.

ARdawg
ARdawg

They say that Gurley is in the best shape and health of his career and I hope he is but, Clemson are looking for Gurley and they will be keying on him. There's plenty of touches to go around even for 5 if we get to that point. I wouldn't expect to see the Freshmen in the back field (I hope to asap) but the game may or may not necessitate it. Ideally, Gurshall tucks the game away early and the Freshmen get a chance to shine. Rather than the other scenario that I will not mention

C-Kirk
C-Kirk

Gurley is a real threat to challenge for the Heisman Trophy so you have to give him every chance in the world to match the numbers some  of the Quarterback's will be putting up.He needs 1500 to 2500 yards and Georgia needs to win at least 11 or 12 games. If it turns out that he will not be able to get the yards because of his Offensive Line is just not dominating then the faster we get these Freshmen game ready with actual carry's the better we will be especially for the end of the season and next year. 

We all saw Henry rip through Offensive Lines in the playoff which proves fresh legs are better than tired ones. So if Gurley gets tired we have 3 others who can carry on the fight and Bobo needs to use them.

I do think Bobo will run the ball 75% of the time if our Defense can stop the opponent from scoring.

CHDawg
CHDawg

I suspect we will see a lot of 3 and 4 on Saturday. However, there a couple of good reasons to work them into the game: developing them for bigger roles down the road because you never know when you will really need them.  And second, because they are very talented and can contribute immediately. Let's remember that our best shot in the last few years came during Gurley's freshman season. He was quite good at the start of the year, but he was a great SEC back against Alabama. They grow a little at the time. I think Michel and Chubb could be Tailback U material! Isn't it nice to have this problem at TB instead of the other kind, folks!!

Dawg350
Dawg350

3 more days till UGA pounds the life out of Clemson baby!!!!

Imurhuckleberry
Imurhuckleberry

Bill, See if you can talk to MR & get B Douglas in at Full Back..Excellent Blocker...Great Hands...Fast..Additional Weapon for us. He is a beast and needs to be on the field!!! Hunker Down You Hairy Dawgs!!!

DIT
DIT

It will be alright Bill. If it's crunch time we will see #3 in the backfield.

RanDawg
RanDawg

-I agree Bill,let's use Gurley,Gurley,and Gurley....


Savdon
Savdon

Dawgs win by 13.

HotDawg
HotDawg

Ole miss finally pulled away. About time.

DawgVoiceofReason
DawgVoiceofReason

@HotDawg Yeah, what happened to "Thus Spake Zarathustra!"? (2001 A Space Odyssey theme).   Their music did them in (that and their lackluster defense).

DawginCO
DawginCO

@C-Kirk A couple of carries for the otherguys isn't going to make or break the offense.  We can speel Gurley and Marshall and still get Gurley 17-20 carries with ease.  We are going to be in a HUNH more this season and that means more plays.  Gurley will also be prominent in the passing game because putting him in space is an absolute nightmare for a DC.  Gurley will get probably a full 1/4 of our offensive touches and maybe closer to 30%.  That means 25-28 touches.  He can do some serious damage without getting used up.


I do not want to burn him out in the first couple of games.  They will be monitoring him and liberally give him a breather as warranted.  I want him available for crunch time in the 4th quarter.  If that means Michel and Chubb get a couple of carries then so be it.

DawginCO
DawginCO

@ColumbusDawg Yes, Richt is old school about running up the score.  I've expounded upon this a least a half dozen times on these blogs.  But calling him a pansy for that is not needed.  He has a code he lives by and he sticks by it.  His opinion about running up the score is wrong but he doesn't do it because he is weak.


As far as the little details thing.  What is the point in worrying about it after the fact.  The fact is that it is being done now and that is what counts.


FlatTire
FlatTire

@ColumbusDawg or the year before against SC; or the year before against Boise St and SC or the year before against; Colorado Miss St  and UCF or the year before against OK St etc

HotDawg
HotDawg

I would like to add that hopes are, of course, for UGA to dictate the flow of the game and control it from beginning to end.

HotDawg
HotDawg

Yeah, I was wondering why they changed the 2001 space odyssey for that piece of crap music. Whatever it was tonight, was not sports compatible....the crowd was gonna be pumped, no matter what.

I personally like the "Hells Bells", no matter if it is overused.

I just hope Georgia doesn't try to get too fancy with their new music freedom, this season.

And certainly don't play that crap that SC did tonight.

C-Kirk
C-Kirk

@FlatTire @C-Kirk A lot of Georgia fans have been saying that but Richt and Bobo just couldn't accept that when you go into that conservative mode and start running it up the middle on every play that you better have the Offensive Line capable of opening up a path for our Running Backs to run through even though the opponent will stack up the middle.