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Monday, October 26, 2009

Following Directions: Boling Move Makes Sense

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.

Yards Average
Middle 46 204 4.43
Left 18 41 2.27
Right 24 131 5.46

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?


jferg said...

More than anything, this unit needs confidence. I think having Boling at the "anchor" LT helps this intangible.

Secondly, nice to have you back!

By the way, what is Latatead? That's my verification word.

rbubp said...

Great analysis.

I think at this point the 80-yard run not only can be left out, but it really must be left out because it is a statistical anomaly.

rbubp said...

Also, regarding Vance, I haven't watched closely enough to know this, but he's mainly been LT, right? And as for the acl injury and playing LT, well, our pass protection numbers have been outstanding, which is a tribute to the whole OL and the RBs, but the LT is a crucial factor there, and that's really the pass protector position more than the run guy, correct? What i"m getting at is, you need someone at LT with a lot of agility because the pocket's blind side is so sensitive--it's the real "absolutely positively has to get there" part of pass protection.

So if Vince has the agility to successfully pass block from the LT, hasn't his ACL injury become a thing of the past?

David Hale said...

Actually Vance has been rotating at LG with Chris Davis the past 3-4 games with Cordy Glenn at LT. I guess Searels wasn't pleased with Vance's work filling in for Sturdivant after the first couple weeks.

rbubp said...

Still, seems it must not have been about agility issues, because the pass blocking has been pretty tight.

Run blocking seems so easy by comparison, especially if you're a big ol' hoss like Vince Vance. See the man, drive him into the ground, right? But maybe it's the plays where he may have to pull to the other side that were an issue.

Who knows.

Anonymous said...

Why is the answer moving Boling to LT? Why can't the answer be running off RT more often?

David Hale said...

Well, I'm not so sure it is "the answer" so much as a potential answer. I think the idea is that LT is the toughest position to play, so by moving your best lineman there, perhaps the rest of the pieces fall into place around him. I don't know if that's actually going to be the case, but at this point, it's probably worth a try, right?