That is a big statement when you think about the four linemen taken in this year's draft. I do count Orson Charles in that group, as he was utilized as a blocker plenty and it serves to bolster an argument I am about to make, something I learned a long time ago was a good thing to do (insert your own rant about conference commissioners or Mike Adams here). With that, I believe our offensive line play will be better this year, which was the
The Senator hit on something this morning that I noticed a few months ago. We flat out sucked at keeping our QB (97th in sacks allowed) or anyone else with the ball (112th in tackles for losses allowed) from getting tackled behind the line of scrimmage (stats from http://www.cfbstats.com/). For the record, we weren't super stars at giving running backs room to run, either. We finished 73rd in the nation with 3.95 ypr on the year. Even more telling, we only had 15 rushing TDs, putting us 90th in the country. While I am willing to concede some of the lack of rushing TDs can be laid at the feet of the play caller and the running backs, confidence in the offensive line is a key component in the play calling.
So, is my confidence misplaced? There are three reasons I don't think so:
- John Theus is an upgrade, even for a freshman. He comes in at 6-6 and just under 300 lbs. According to those in the know, he has room to add another 15 lbs of muscle without problem and is already extremely strong. While he'll need to improve his technique, he is ready to play. The JUCO guy, Mark Beard, will likely be in the rotation for either guard spot come fall. He can move pretty good for a big guy and is strong enough to move guys off the ball already. I feel more confident in the group this year than I did the group last year, experience notwithstanding.
- We have more options for the offensive coaches to work with behind the line. Much has been made of Aaron Murray's footwork. He still had a strong season. I still think he is being under utilized as a running threat. This year, we'll have to be a little less 2011 and a little more 2005, spreading the hand-offs around and counting on Murray to stay out of or get out of trouble with his legs. If...IF we get some protection, Murray has shown what he can do when he has time. If...IF we can settle on decent running options and offer some protection by handing the ball off to guys not named Crowell some, that'll open up options to keep defenses from keying on certain types of plays, something that got us in deep trouble, particularly in the SECCG and the bowl game. Obviously, I am (at least for the moment) convinced we can do that.
- Artie Lynch is a beast. I told you I had a point to be made. Last year, Paul advocated moving Artie down the line to serve as another tackle in 2012. I saw his point, but didn't think that served much use in the long run. Now, he'll be at TE. While Orson wasn't a bad blocker, at all, there is a noticeable size difference in the two (3 or so inches and about 30 pounds). Artie isn't going to outrun linebackers to the sideline on quick outs, but he isn't going to have to be technically perfect to block blitzing line backers or move a DE off the ball. Plus, we do have the option of running two TE packages with Rome and Lynch, although if you weren't doing that last year or the year before, I am not sure you'd do it now.
Notice, I didn't make the 'it has to get better because it can't get worse' argument. While I do feel that way, getting better isn't the only problem. Georgia lived on the edge in both giving up field position and giving the ball to the other team when the game was on the line. We can't keep having drive killing three yard losses on second down and seven with on a quick dive. You know when we were particularly not awesome running the ball? 3rd down and long. You know who led the nation in running plays on 3rd and 10+? Georgia with 33 attempts (if you want to get mad at 'balance' look up how many times we passed the ball on 3rd and long). We have to get a lot better and have many fewer situations where the play calling gets limited by whatever it gets limited by.
To not be in 2nd and seven situations, we have to get more push and have competence in running into the line. Same goes for those 2nd and 7 situations where Bobo is digging into his bag of trick and pulling out a quick dive, 'cause you, I, and opposing defenses know we we are going to run it.