One thing about the problems in the running game that remains difficult to really analyze statistically is the impact of the offensive line. I'm not a coach, so film study of the line is both inaccessible and fairly useless for me. Maybe the line stinks, maybe the runners do. I pretty much have to take the coaches' words for it. It's the ultimate anecdotal evidence position.
Of course, there is one bit of statistical data I do have access to that might tell us a little bit about Georgia's O line as it relates to the running game.
While the play-by-play from each game is hardly a vivid description of actual events, I do have directional results from four of Georgia's seven contests so far. That is, the play-by-play tells us whether the tailback ran left, right or up the middle. For three of the games, I don't have that info, but for 88 of Georgia's 165 carries by its tailbacks this season, we do have the data. Considering that's more than 50 percent, I think it's fair to extrapolate those results out to give us a bit better overall picture of where Georgia has had success and where it has struggled.
First, a couple of notes:
-- This research is for tailbacks only. I did not include runs by Branden Smith and Logan Gray or any of the fullbacks or QB sneaks, etc., as those tend to be the most reliable examples of true rushing attempts.
-- The directional analysis was at the complete disgression of the scorekeeper, so it's hard to truly define whether "middle" means between the left guard and left tackle or straight behind center, etc. It's simply a "between the tackles" run.
-- The four games we get these numbers from are South Carolina, Arkansas, Arizona State and LSU.
Now, some conclusions:
-- Georgia's split between "up the middle" and "outside" runs is nearly 50/50. That may not be a good thing and it may also be another holdover of Mike Bobo's fascination with "balance." (Also, I think I'm overusing "quotation marks" on this post.)
-- Those numbers down the middle are skewed a bit by Richard Samuel's 80-yarder against Arkansas. Obviously that run can't be discounted, but it does inflate the overall average quite a bit. If you calculate the yards per carry average for runs between the tackles without that carry, it's a mundane 2.75 ypc.
-- The overall yards per carry average by the tailbacks in these games was 4.17 ypc. So looking at the raw numbers, Georgia was about average down the middle, well below average running left and well above average running right.
Considering Georgia has started three different left tackles this season and has had left guard manned by an injured Chris Davis and Vince Vance, who is recovering from ACL surgery less than 12 months ago, there's probably a good reason why the Bulldogs have had less success running in that direction. I've said for more than a month now that Georgia has missed Trinton Sturdivant far more than people are acknowledging, but these numbers really bear that out.
On the other hand, Clint Boling has essentially been a constant at right tackle this season, and clearly that has been Georgia's best option to run behind (or around).
So perhaps the news that Stacy Searels was considering moving Boling from the right side back to left tackle, where he played last year, shouldn't come as much of a surprise. In fact, it seems like a pretty obvious solution.Now the question becomes -- can anyone else step up to provide a few more running lanes for the Dawgs?