Georgia Football: The Running Game is Set to Rebound in 2017

Sony Michel and Nick Chubb’s decision to return should give Georgia’s running game a boost.

Sony Michel and Nick Chubb returned for a reason: Chubb felt he had some unfinished business to attend to with a certain North Avenue university, and Michel likely saw the benefit of coming back for one more year to increase his NFL Draft stock for 2018.

Thanks to an inconsistent offense, and a couple of nagging injuries (for both), neither was able to maximize his potential in Jim Chaney’s first season as Offensive Coordinator. However, with the decision to return, both likely will be at the top of many a prognosticator’s preseason watch list–Chubb is already pegged with strong Heisman odds yet again.

None of the potential accolades matter, in my opinion.

If Chaney can’t do a better job of using the running, including the incoming D’Andre Swift–who may be able to help fill some of the void left behind by Isaiah McKenzie–it’s going to be tough sledding for the offense.

Chaney needs to do a better job of getting each of them the ball (early and often) if the rest of the offense has any real chance to open up the way it needs to in order to keep Georgia competitive each week.

While it would be in poor taste for me to overlook the presence of the other returning backs on the roster, in the wake of McKenzie’s departure, Swift’s presence intrigues me that much more.

As the lone running back signed in the last recruiting cycle, he’s likely to garner the most significant preseason attention, but not just for his ability to run the football. Swift is every bit as confidenct catching passes as he as taking hand-offs. That’s something to remember when you consider Kirby Smart’s desire to put the “best 11” on the field.

You can bet Jacob Eason benefits from having play makers at every position. If Swift fits that bill, and continues to remain healthy, his progress certainly bears watching this spring.

As for Michel and Chubb, they will most certainly be counted on to make sure the train (as my friend, Buc might say) stays on the proverbial track.

The running backs will be the conduit through which this offense finds the ability to run with efficiency and (hopefully) success. Both will need to get off to a good start–and hopefully the schedule will be a plus, not a minus, to that endeavor–and as they go, so will likely go Eason.

A successful running game will allow Eason to relax more. That way he can focus on making the passes he often felt too rushed or amped to complete consistently last year.

Of course, much of this will depend on how well Sam Pittman (offensive line coach) prepares his charges–both old and new–to do their respective jobs. Georgia will certainly need to find a serviceable Center.

Lamont Gaillard is on deck, but if he isn’t ready to step into the position, Georgia may have to turn to a true freshman for the job and, if that happens, it would be an issue worthy of a different discussion altogether.

There are certainly plenty of cogs to the wheel, to be sure, but there can be little question that the running game will set the tone for how well the offense is able to perform.

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I am not a 'journalist' by trade, nor do I present myself as such. I am a wife, mother, and passionate Georgia Bulldog fan. That's it. I write. You read.

10 comments for “Georgia Football: The Running Game is Set to Rebound in 2017

  1. 03/08/2017 at 1:47 PM

    Good thoughts Kimberley! Thanks.

  2. Vic Webb
    03/08/2017 at 10:02 AM

    In my opinion, the offensive line has everything to do with why we sputtered everywhere on offense last year. Tight ends were held back to block and therefore not huge part the attack, no confidence in the running game because we couldn’t make holes(for two of the best backs there are), QB was rushed nearly every play(horrible situation for a Fr QB).

    I’m tickled we got some huge recruits to plug holes in the O Line. But I’m not about to hop on any hype train this off season. I’m not super optimistic that freshmen are going to have a huge impact in fixing what was last year. I think it will take time to mature. The upper classmen that we have left on the line don’t bring me a lot of hope.

    So I’m at a loss for words for the play calling because I don’t know if our line play limited us to what plays we could call. I’m certain it has a lot to do with it. I’m not sold that out OC or Pittman can coach these guys up. I cannot remember a worse O Line situation than we had last year.

    I pray for Sony and Nick that Chemistry, Talent and Leadership emerge in the trenches in ’17. Otherwise us dawgs will have another year of teeth gnashing and finger pointing.

    • 03/08/2017 at 10:32 AM

      Vic, that’s a smart approach to take and, trust me, I’m not ready to peg this team as championship ready either. However, I do feel better about the size, talent-level, and overall attitude of the new o-linemen.

      No offense to Catalina (who often frustrated me with the way he always seemed to get whipped), Kublanow (a serviceable, but small center), or the Sims/Gaillard rotation (which often left the interior looking like Swiss Cheese), but that configuration wasn’t built for dominance or consistency. It was built from what was left over after too many years or poor recruiting at that position.

      Too many of the guys were either undersized or under-prepared to make a go of it–hell, Gaillard was recruited to play on the other side of the ball.

      Now, does that mean this years incarnation will be markedly better? Not necessarily, but at least the pieces are there to make it a better product. Yes, it will still have growing pains, but ‘growing pains’ is an improvement because it actually means growth is happening.

      We’ll all just have to ‘wait and see’ …as always.

      • Statesburr
        03/08/2017 at 10:49 AM

        Still….we averaged 382 total yards per game….196 yards passing and 186 yards running.
        In comparison Alabama averaged 471 total yards…226 passing and 245 yards running.
        The Eastern Div Champs Florida averaged 345 total yards…215 passing and 129 yards rushing. What does it all say?

        • 03/08/2017 at 11:09 AM

          I won’t profess to know the main difference between what those programs were able to do versus what Georgia did, but (and this is without looking up a bunch of stats at the moment) as I recall, the running game wasn’t nearly as proficient in the first half as it was the latter. It’s every bit as likely that those stats are padded by a strong finish. The same is likely true of the passing game.

          Further, I’d be interested (and may even go back and look) to see how effective Georgia was in the redzone: the difference between a 3-point field goal and a 6-point TD amounts to a couple extra wins in Georgia’s back pocket.

          End of the day, Georgia fell short in a couple of games where it had a solid chance: Tennessee still hurts like hell, Vanderbilt was unforgivable, and we won’t even discuss Tech.

          If Georgia gets those three and shows up against Florida, we’re having a very different conversation–obviously.

  3. Statesburr
    03/08/2017 at 9:36 AM

    The Offensive line was a huge problem for Eason (no time), Chubb and Michel(no holes), Receivers (routes not complete), Tight ends(having to chip or block), Defense (returning to field because of poor 3rd down conversion). Gosh….a Rhode Island Left Tackle…a slow right guard for Right Tackle…a slow small center…a undersized left guard…an former defensive tackle playing right guard… That was a tough year for all.

    • 03/08/2017 at 10:02 AM

      You said a mouthful there, Statesburr (love the handle. That’s precisely how my fellow South Georgians pronounce the place dem Eagles fly 😉) …but,definitely, a lot of what ailed the Dawgs can be corrected with better line play. It was awful last year … no question.

    • 03/08/2017 at 5:40 PM

      Statesburr, really hope that we find a “center” that will change our offensive line play for years to come. So important . . . . me thinks.

      Andrews grew up in Athens getting his butt kicked back in the day of huge defensive linemen, learning the position. Nose to the grindstone, never gave up. Now wearing a “Super Bowl Ring”.

      At some point someone had to understand the importance of the “center position” . . . . Kirby Smart hired Sam Pittman, bet this, Sam knows . . . . 🙂

      Good read Sir. 🙂

      • Statesburr
        03/09/2017 at 8:31 AM

        Thanks Bucwlove,

        Yes…ask the Falcons about the value of a true center :)… Kimberly was right, last year was the accumulation of weak Oline recruiting over the years…the group that played was “what was left” I will take the huge guys we have now recruited to, at a minimum, stand and fight off defenders..albeit young…but Sam Pittman big.

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