Georgia Can Balance the Run Game in 2020
Kirby Smart’s Georgia Bulldogs are looking at an offensive renovation in 2020.
Former offensive line coach Sam Pittman is now the head coach for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Career OL coach Matt Luke stepped in following a stint as interim head coach at Ole Miss, his alma mater.
Former offensive coordinator James Coley was more or less ousted from Athens, accepting a position at Texas A&M within two weeks of the appointment of Todd Monken in mid-January. Though Monken had yet to be announced to serve any specific role, it appeared as if the proverbial writing was on the wall for Coley, who days later bolted for College Station to coach tight ends for the Aggies.
Regarding player personnel, the Dawgs’ offense needs to replace three-year starting quarterback Jake Fromm, two tailbacks with at least three years experience in D’Andre Swift and Brian Herrien, tight ends Charlie Woerner and Eli Wolf, and four starting offensive linemen.
Three starting offensive linemen (Andrew Thomas, Isaiah Wilson, Solomon Kindley) were drafted while one starter (Cade Mays) transferred to Tennessee to play the remainder of his college ball in his hometown alongside his younger brother and fellow OL, Cooper.
Though there are big shoes to fill across all offensive positions, incoming OC Monken and dual-threat graduate transfer QB Jamie Newman have a lot to work in the run game:
Zeus is looking to break free in his redshirt sophomore season. Following an ACL injury in 2018, the former five-star prospect tallied 408 yards on 78 carries in his first collegiate game. White showed that he can be a do-it-all back in high school, but caught only two passes out of the backfield last season while exhibiting the downhill rushing and pass protection of which he was long known to be have been capable.
With Georgia's stable of tailbacks, it's difficult to predict if Zeus will be the main featured back (do the Bulldogs ever only have one?), but he'll ostensibly be the go-to RB in short-yardage situations even when the defense knows exactly what's coming at them.
Rising junior James Cook, co-winner Georgia football's most improved offensive player in 2019, is the most probable candidate among all of Dell McGee's students to lead the position group in receiving yards in 2020.
Cook caught 16 passes out of the backfield for the Silver Britches last year, tied with graduated tailback Brian Herrien. NFL draftee D'Andre Swift hauled in 24. In the absence of the two recently departed give Cook an opportunity to get more targets as a receiver. As predecessor Sony Michel did in toward the end of his collegiate career, don't be surprised to see Cook occasionally break off and practice with slot receivers when workouts resume.
He's a quick cutter agile enough to make defenders miss in close space, whether as a rusher or receiver. Again, the versatility provided by this returning contributor is a valued asset in keeping defenses guessing where the ball is going.
McIntosh was the only true freshman tailback to see serious playing time for the Bulldogs in 2019. He managed to account for 174 yards on 25 carries, nearly an even 7.0 yards per carry and recorded the team's longest run of the season against Arkansas State.
He only caught one pass in 2019 and his two older teammates possess loads more experience in being targeted out of the offensive backfield, but I can see him being targeted closer to 10 or 15 times in 2020.
Newcomers Kendall Milton, Daijun Edwards:
Early enrollee Kendall Milton fits the mold of a jack-of-all-trades Georgia Bulldog tailback. His vision, patience, footwork, accelerating through gaps, soft hands when receiving; his size and balance will allow him to excel in pass protection, the list goes on.
Daijun Edwards was a late addition for Kirby Smart's 2020 recruiting class, pledging to play ball in Athens on National Signing Day. A bowling ball of a rusher at 5'11" and north of 200 pounds, his power running and downhill speed have earned him comparisons to Bulldog great Nick Chubb.
A program built on running the dang ball, Georgia tends to sign one highly touted power runner and a another highly touted do-it-all tailback in each year's recruiting cycle.
This inherently provides a balance of each tailback's workload, keeping offensive legs fresh and keeping opposing defensive coordinators on their toes.
Returning offensive linemen:
Ben Cleveland has seen plenty of rotational and starting action at right guard, among other spots along the OL since he arrived in Athens in 2016.
Georgia's senior-most offensive lineman, Cleveland's experience and assumed leadership will prove vital.
Jamaree Salyer, with plenty of experience under his belt, will presumably start at one of the tackles in his junior season in Athens. He's appeared in 26 of his 28 possible appearances in red and black. With two departed tailbacks and a bit less experience than desired on the OL, Salyer's mauling run blocking, along with his tenure, will be valuable in 2020.
Warren Ericson earned playing time in the Sugar Bowl against Baylor; he seems to be an immediate favorite of new OL coach Matt Luke. Ericson will be a redshirt sophomore in 2020, and while recruited as a center, was more than just serviceable in playing right guard in New Orleans as Cleveland sat out.
Justin Shaffer missed more than the latter half of the 2019 season but should be good to go in 2020. Like Salyer and Cleveland, he's more than capable of playing both guard spots.
Center Trey Hill is the only returning full-time starter on Georgia's offensive line. The rising junior started all fourteen games snapping the ball last season and will be instrumental in maintaining organization along the offensive line through experience and vocalization.
Todd Monken likes to spread the ball around. Georgia has Jamie Newman, the team's first true dual-threat QB in a decade-and-a-half, along with a typically well-rounded group of tailbacks. Quarterback counters and RPO's will return in full force while Newman is afforded a myriad of multi-talented targets lined up behind him.
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