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As a Georgia Fan, I’m Really Glad that Aaron Murray is Afraid of Jadeveon Clowney


College football fans were stunned this week to hear that South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney recently ran a 4.46 40-yard dash.  He is 6-6 and 274 lbs. and I repeat: he ran a 4.46 40-yard dash.

At SEC Media Days his head coach, Steve Spurrier, praised his ability to lay low and stay out of the limelight.  Moments later Clowney took a page out of the Ol’ Ball Coach’s playbook and fired some verbal shots.

Clowney mentioned in an interview that he knew several quarterbacks were scared of him.  When asked which ones he responded, “Aaron Murray is one of them,” before listing Clemson signal-caller Tajh Boyd and Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson.

Jadeveon went on to add, “You can look at a guy and tell if he’s scared.  If he’s staring at me before the ball is snapped, if he’s staring at me before every snap, I’m just like, ‘Oh we got him.’”

Aside from the fact that any QB in the country should be looking at Jadeveon Clowney pre-snap (it’s the right thing to do), I think Clowney missed a very key point.

Aaron Murray needs to be afraid of Jadeveon Clowney.  As a Georgia fan I’m OK with that.  Clowney is a skilled player who is certainly capable of hurting Aaron Murray who is nearly 70 pounds smaller.  I don’t want Aaron Murray hurt.  If Murray got hurt who would play QB for the Bulldogs in the SEC Championship Game?  If Murray had been reckless with his body against South Carolina in 2011 and 2012, Georgia might not have even earned a trip back to Atlanta.

I guess Clowney wouldn’t know anything about that, though.  He’s never played for an SEC Championship.  He’s never needed to be healthy on the first Saturday of December.

Clowney seems to have a somewhat selective memory.  Last year he – and the South Carolina defense as a whole – wreaked havoc on a Georgia offense that was crippled by Special Teams errors, field position and mental mistakes.  Murray’s statline for that game epitomizes the success of the South Carolina defense that day: 11 for 31 passing for 109 yards, 0 TDs and 1 INT.

Clowney seems to have forgotten Murray’s 19 of 29 performance in 2011 that yielded 4 TD passes.

He also seems to have forgotten that Georgia is the two-time defending SEC East Champion.  Clowney labeled Florida as South Carolina’s biggest opposition this season.

The real threat to South Carolina this year might be arrogance.  I said earlier this summer on a podcast that this is the peak of South Carolina football.  Clowney and the other Gamecocks seem all too aware of that reality.  And that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Spurrier has always had a quick tongue; his jabs are expected.  But Clowney’s mouth runs a 4.46.

 

That’s all I got/

Andrew

Tuesday Doomsday: History and Math Suggest Johnny Football Will Not Win the Heisman Trophy Again


This is the sixth post in the Tuesday Doomsday series.  Previously, downfalls were predicted for GurshallJadeveon ClowneyTajh Boyd, Will Muschamp and Teddy Bridgewater.

 

In some regards this article was a long time coming.  When predicting that an entity will fall short of expectations, the easiest place to start is with the pinnacle of current success.  Case in point: if I want to predict which NBA team will disappoint in 2013 one team seems like an odds-on-favorite:  the Miami Heat.  Miami returns its nucleus, the best player on the planet, a host of other weapons and a lot of momentum.  But anything short of being the best is failure for the two-time defending champs.  Do I expect the Heat to miss the playoffs?  No. But even making the playoffs and winning in rounds one, two and three before losing in round four is still coming up short.  There is a much higher chance for disappointment next year with Miami Heat (82-23 overall record including playoffs) than with Orlando (20-62 in 2012) even though Miami is light-years ahead as a team.

I say all of that to say:  It’s not exactly ground-breaking to say that a Heisman Trophy, in this instance Johnny Manziel, winner may take a step back.  And perhaps the very obvious nature of that prediction is why I’ve been slow to write this.

 

The History

History alone strongly opposes back-to-back Heisman winners.  In total the award has been handed out 78 times.  Fifty-Six of those winners were seniors and therefore eliminated from living up to expectations the following season – at least at the collegiate level.  Here is how the other twenty-two winners shake out:

  • Nine (Roger Staubach – 1963, Herschel Walker – 1982, Barry Sanders – 1988, Andre Ware – 1989, Desmond Howard – 1991, Rashaan Salaam – 1994, Charles Woodson – 1997, Cam Newton – 2010, Robert Griffin III – 2011) did not return for another season of college football.  Instead, they went pro early.
  • Ten (Doc Blancherd – 1945, Doak Walker – 1948, Vic Janowicz – 1950, Billy Sims – 1978, Ty Detmer – 1990, Jason White – 2003, Matt Leinart – 2004, Tim Tebow – 2007, Sam Bradford – 2008, Mark Ingram – 2009) returned to college football but failed to win another Heisman Trophy.
  • Nineteen of the 22 are now covered.  Two of the 22 belong to Archie Griffin – the lone repeat Heisman winner (1974 and 1975).
  • That leaves only Johnny Manziel.

 

Johnny Football didn’t have the option of going pro – so I’m taking the “not playing” option off the table (although at any time Manziel could be seriously injured or decide that he really, really, really hates college and could then quit).  That means that 10 out of 11 stars with whom Manziel could be compared (those Heisman winners that returned) failed to repeat.  Add some math to that history and Johnny has a 9.09% chance of repeating.  Those are slim odds for anything, but when the condition in question is “Being the Best in the Country,” those odds are steepened.

 

The Statistics

“But,” you may be saying, “Johnny Manziel was the first freshman to ever win the award.”  That is true and that certainly makes him unique.  But if you remove that special circumstance, you can deduce that although he got there faster (although to be fair: as a redshirt freshman he had been in college as long as Tim Tebow – a true sophomore) but put up eerily similar numbers to the following Heisman-winning QBs:

Winning Year

Player

School

Total Offfense

Total TDs

1990

Ty Detmer

BYU

4929

44

2003

Jason White

Oklahoma

3640

41

2004

Matt Leinart

USC

2957

31

2007

Tim Tebow

Florida

3970

51

2008

Sam Bradford

Oklahoma

4529

53

2012

Johnny Manziel

Texas A&M

4600

43

 

A few notes on those numbers:

  • These are numbers prior to Heisman voting – so they do not include Bowl Games.  In general, when I speak on Heisman campaigns I will ignore games that occur after voting.  Those may be interesting or indicative of correct or incorrect polling but they had no bearing on votes cast.
  • When I say, “Manziel’s numbers are eerily similar,” that is not a bad thing at all.  Remember: these are all players deemed to be the most outstanding in the country.   The five other players on the list averaged 4005 yards of offense (Manziel bested that) and 44 total TDs (he lagged slightly).  This is a good group to fit in with.

 

But, how did those players who returned hold up during the following season?

Year

Player

School

Total Offense

Total TDs

1991

Ty Detmer

BYU

3651

37

2004

Jason White

Oklahoma

2913

33

2005

Matt Leinart

USC

3484

33

2008

Tim Tebow

Florida

3079

40

2009

Sam Bradford

Oklahoma*

3264

24

 

With regards to these numbers:

  • To keep things even I again excluded Bowl Games.
  • Sam Bradford’s numbers are projected (he was hurt early during Game 3, so I multiplied his total performance prior to injury by six to get a rough estimate for a 12-game slate).
  • Only Matt Leinart advanced in yardage (although he somehow hurt his draft stock in the process).  He was also the lone player to advance in total TDs.

 

The graphs below display the total impact of these declines.  And, so that I’m not accused of randomly selecting data: THIS DATA REFLECTS EVERY SINGLE HEISMAN WINNING QUARTERBACK WHO RETURNED TO PLAY THE NEXT SEASON AFTER WINNING THE HEISMAN TROPHY.  EVERY.  SINGLE.  ONE. EVER.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

 

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

 

Application:

So what does this mean for Johnny Manziel?  If the historical (and mathematical) precedents hold then in 2013 Manziel will account for a little less than 82% of his 2012 total offense accumulation and a little over 75% of his TD production.  What do those numbers look like?

  • 3765 yards of offense
  • 33 TDs

 

Those are certainly respectable numbers, but do they win the Heisman?  Probably not.  Put it this way: last year Aaron Murray came pretty darn close to numbers while putting up a passer rating nearly 20 points better than Manziel, and he didn’t get serious Heisman consideration.  And, even as a Georgia fan, I’m not complaining about that.

Combine that notion with the fact that there is absolutely no historical precedent for crap like this happening once – let alone twice – and I feel confident in predicting that Manziel will not win the Heisman Trophy in 2013.

 

That’s all I got/

Andrew

Tuesday Doomsday: Teddy Bridgewater Won’t Be Invited to the Heisman Ceremony


This is the fourth post in the Tuesday Doomsday series.  Previously, downfalls were predicted for GurshallJadeveon Clowney and Tajh Boyd.

 

The general consensus is that Teddy Bridgewater will carry-over his BCS Bowl success (to be fair: Bridgewater had a nice game – but not a miraculous one – against an unfocused Florida team: 20/32 passing, 266 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) into the 2013 season and contend for a Heisman Trophy.  He has a lot of talent back and an easy schedule.  He should be a favorite.

The Heisman odds from Bovada seem to think that’s a real possibility.  Bridgewater trails only Johnny Manziel, Braxton Miller and A.J. McCarron in early listings.

I don’t think he will be invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony.

 

The Numbers

I will quickly concede that Louisville lost very little talent.  And it is always good for a QB to have moving parts that he is comfortable with.  As far as offensive skill positions go, only eight players who registered yards in 2012 are gone.  The quick summary of their production:

  • RB Jeremy Wright: 824 yards rushing, 325 yards receiving, 11 total TDs
  • WR Andrell Smith: 536 yards receiving, 3 TDs
  • WR Scott Radcliff: 162 yards receiving
  • TE Nate Nord: 122 yards receiving, 1 TD
  • QB Will Stein: 131 yards passing, 8 yards rushing
  • FB Nick Heuser: 57 yards rushing, 2 TDs
  • TE Chris White: 5 yards receiving
  • WR Kai Dominguez: 1 yard receiving

 

Within the context of Louisville’s offense, the Cardinals are losing 55.7% of their rushing yards and 52% of their rushing TDs.  Within the passing game the Cardinals are losing 29.9% of their receiving yards and just 18.5% of their receiving TDs.

In totality: Teddy Bridgewater returns 62.5% of his offensive fire-power (as measured by yards rushing and receiving) and 66% of his scoring.

So, Louisville certainly returns a healthy portion of its offensive weapons.  There is one problem, though.  Louisville’s offense was very mediocre in 2012.

  • Ranked 51st in the nation in yards per game.
  • Ranked 51st in points per game.

 

Sure, Bridgewater showed promise, but this offense was middling at best.  And the offense was often hampered by a poor running game.

Bridgewater’s 8.9 yards per pass attempt ranked seventh in the country and fifth among BCS Conference passers.  However, Louisville’s running game ranked 106th in the nation in yards per attempt.  Louisville converted 173 first downs through the air (the 18th best total in the country), but the Cardinals running game converted just 106 (the 65th best total).

It is a given that different teams have differing styles of play.  And those poor rushing totals could be overlooked if Louisville had a truly pass-happy offense, but the Cardinals don’t.  Bridgewater was 31st in the nation in pass attempts in 2012 with 419.  The top decile of the country in pass attempts averaged over 523 passes.

And again, Louisville’s point totals certainly aren’t in-line with a pass-happy offense.  The top decile of “pass-happy” offenses averaged 35.5 points per game.  That would individually rank 24th in the nation in scoring.  Again, Louisville ranked 51st in the nation.

 

Forget the Numbers

I’ve been spitting entirely too much math your way, so let me use my words for a moment as I think they might put some actual context into those stats.

Teddy Bridgewater is a great quarterback.  He has a most of his weapons back from last year, unfortunately last year’s offense was very average.  In my opinion Bridgewater – and the offense as a whole – was limited by a poor running game.

For him to garner serious Heisman consideration he needs to put up flashier numbers (for you Georgia fans out there, Aaron Murray threw for about 175 more yards and 9 more TDs against much better defenses in 2012 despite throwing 33 fewer passes) and the offense needs to be better.  The key to the offense improving falls squarely on the running game.

The running game was terrible last year.  Louisville lost two starters on the offensive line.  And, Louisville lost their leading rusher (Jeremy Wright).  Combine that with they fact that the team’s second-leading rusher (and to be fair, the team’s best rusher), Senorise Perry, was lost for the season in November with a torn ACL and there is a lot of uncertainty in the running game.  Dominique Brown will be back from his injury, but I don’t know that depending on a player who last played on December 27, 2011 and has just 140 career carries is all that comforting either.

Ultimately I don’t think Louisville’s offense will improve enough to get Bridgewater to New York for the Heisman Trophy Ceremony.

 

 

That’s all I got/

Andrew

This Post is Graphic in Nature: Jadeveon Clowney will disappoint in 2013


Last week I told you that stud sophomores Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall would decline in production for the Georgia Bulldogs.  Those sentiments were not contrived, they were genuine (although I will repeat: I hope everything that I wrote turns out to be wrong).  But, I did strategically debut this series with that article so that I could write articles like this one without sounding completely ignorant to life itself.  With that in mind, before you think “this guy is just a pro-Georgia homer with no respect for other teams,” please go back and re-read this article.  Maybe then I won’t sound quite as crazy when I say…

Jadeveon Clowney will regress in 2013.

That is a bold statement in and of itself, and I’m sure at the end of this season some stat-geek will come back at me with an argument that is mathematically advanced in its convenient rebuttal to my assertion.  So allow me to amend my thesis:  Jadeveon Clowney will regress in 2013 relative to the mass public’s perception of his 2012 season.  How’s that?

So, will 2k13 Clowney be decisively worse than his 2012 version (90 total tackles, 57 solo tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, 2 passes defensed, 1 fumble recovery and 3 forced fumbles)?  Maybe not.  But he will be worse than fans remember him being in 2012.

What am I talking about?  Am I just offering a cop-out for my prediction?  I don’t think so.  Let me dig deeper…

 

Clowney has to be worse in 2013.

That was my thesis when I began this article.  “There is no possible way he could match his production from a year ago,” I thought.  But then I looked at his actual production – not merely the perception of his production.

Clowney registered 13 sacks for 73 total yards lost in 2012.  Those are very good numbers; there’s no doubt about that.  But they weren’t the best in the SEC last year.  Clowney’s 13 total sacks did not best Jarvis Jones’ 14.5 from 2012 and did not surpass Jones’ Conference-leading total of 13.5 in 2011.  You’d have to go back to 2009 to find a time when Clowney’s 73 sack-yards would have been tops in the SEC.  The off-season hype surrounding Clowney seems more on-par with an 18-sack season.  But that 18-sack season is not a reality.  Perception, at least with Jadeveon Clowney, is not always reality.

In my mind I perceived Clowney as registering 35+ tackles for loss in 2012.  In reality he tallied 23.5.  Again, that is beyond great (the fourth highest total in the SEC since 2007), but I don’t know that I’d call it super-human.  The hype told me he had a bigger number here.

Forced fumbles?  This one certainly stands out.

But Clowney only forced two additional fumbles all year, and this play was his lone fumble recovery.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Lack of consistency:

Bowl games always get too much hype.  They are fans’ and pundits’ lasting memory of a season that is gone.  As such, they get replayed, talked about and built up entirely too much.  Combine that with the notion that every BCS Conference team playing in a Bowl (except for two) is playing for a consolation prize (seriously, click that link.  I always liked that article) following a long lay-off and Holiday season, and it is suddenly a bit ridiculous to base predictions for an upcoming season on a bowl game.  (Dude’s note: This is not a shot at Clemson fans.  Seriously.)

Jadeveon Clowney stole Bowl Season with his hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith.  It was incredible.  Everyone in the press box at the Capital One Bowl stopped watching Georgia/Nebraska and watched the hit on their laptops over and over and over again.  It was insane.  But it was ultimately insignificant as an indicator of Clowney’s potential success in 2013.  In addition to the fact that the play occurred during a relatively meaningless game, here are some things that you don’t ever hear discussed about that particular hit/explosion:

  • Vincent Smith is one foot (literally) shorter than Jadeveon Clowney and 81 pounds lighter.
  • Smith has braided hair.  Players with braided hair lose their helmets quite often.  Ask Clowney himself.
  • Smith carried the ball 38 times for a total of 94 yards in 2012 – a whipping 2.47 yards per carry.  Clowney didn’t destroy Montee Ball or Eddie Lacy in the backfield.  he destroyed Vincent Smith.
  • Smith was running behind an offensive line that allowed all of 69 yards rushing against Alabama’s defense earlier in the year.  Other teams/players had success in penetrating the Wolverine line.  Clowney wasn’t de-flowring an otherwise unblemished O-line.

Clowney’s hit was impressive, but Smith was about as close to being a stationary object as you will ever see in a major college football game.  He was tiny. He had very little protection.  He had no prior history of elusiveness or the ability to escape tackles.

“But don’t forget,” you might suggest, “that South Carolina’s final regular season game saw Clowney terrorize Tajh Boyd and the Clemson offense.  He registered 4.5 sacks in that game.”

So, while pundits point to Clowney “finishing hot,” could one not also say that he capitalized against an ACC offensive line that was not used to the speed of an elite SEC defensive line?  Clemson faced Wake Forest’s defensive line on October 25th, Duke’s defensive line on November 3rd, Maryland’s defensive line on November 10th, NC State’s defensive line on November 17th and then out of nowhere had to play Jadeveon Clowney and South Carolina.

That’s a bit of a harsh change of pace.  Case in point, here are Clemson’s point totals in those five consecutive games:

  • Wake Forest: 42
  • Duke: 56
  • Maryland: 45
  • NC State: 62
  • South Carolina: 17

To be fair, there are two sides to each story.   Clowney’s 4.5 sacks could have been a result of Clowney being unstoppable.  Those sacks might not have had anything to do with Clemson’s inefficiencies and inability to prepare.  But I think that theory falls apart when you look at this series of numbers:

4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42 2, 2, 0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 0, 1, 2, 1, 1.5, 1, 1, 0, 1, 1, 0, 0

What are those numbers?  Those are Jadeveon Clowney’s individual game Sack statistics against BCS Conference opponents other than his freak 4.5 sack game.  A few things stand out to me that make the 4.5 number seem a bit out of place:

  • Clowney registered twice as many games in this series without a sack (8) as he did with more than 1 sack (4).
  • Only once in 2012 (again, outside of the Clemson game) did Clowney register more than one sack against a BCS Conference foe.  That was his 1.5 sack performance against Missouri.
  • His 4.5 sack performance against Clemson in 2012 represented more sacks than he had in combined games against Auburn in 2011 (0), Kentucky in 2011 (0), Mississippi State in 2011 (1), Tennessee in 2011 (0), Arkansas in 2011 (0), Florida in 2011 (0), Clemson in 2011 (1), Vanderbilt in 2012 (1), Georgia in 2012 (1), LSU in 2012 (0), Arkansas in 2012 (0) and Michigan in the 2012 bowl (0).
  • Over the 19 games featured in the series above, Clowney averaged .76 sacks per game.  He recorded 5.92 times that production against Clemson.

Doesn’t that Clemson game seem a little bit “uncharacteristic,” so to speak?

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

And would we really be celebrating Jadeveon Clowney as an inhuman beast if he had registered one lone sack (still higher than his career average against BCS foes) against Clemson?  I don’t think so.

If you’ve watched Clowney play, you know that statistics don’t tell the whole story.  Accordingly, I can’t say that he is inconsistent.  And even his stats seem to deny that point.  Even a 9.5 sack season (what Clowney would have had with just one sack against Clemson), is a far-cry from inconsistent.  But I can say this: Clowney has not been a consistently dominating statistical force.  He’s been great in bunches.

A little help please…

Here’s a quick recap of who South Carolina lost from last year’s defense:

  • Devin Taylor, the other monster DE that terrorized Georgia.
  • Byron Jerideau, defensive tackle who started all 13 games.
  • Aldrick Fordham, a key reserve at DE who registered 4.5 sacks and forced two fumbles in 2012.
  • The top 5 linebackers.  All of them.   That’s 217.5 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, 7 pass breakups, 5 INTs, 7 forced fumbles and 3 fumble recoveries.
  • D.J. Swearinger, stud defensive back who registered 10+% of the team’s tackles.
  • Brad Lawing, Defensive Line Coach since Spurrier arrived.  Was lured away by Florida.

Is it that far-fecthed to think teams might be able to scheme for Clowney a bit more with such an inexperienced defense taking the field?

If you’re still thinking about that, the answer is ”no.”  I don’t know the South Carolina roster inside and out (I’m sure Johnathan Barnes will speak in great detail about the Gamecock defense in weeks to come), but I know Georgia football and I think the following comparison captures this sentiment:

Georgia lost a lot on defense.  A whole lot.  But pretend that Jarvis Jones had decided to stay for a final season even though Alec Ogletree, John Jenkins, Shawn Williams, Sanders Commings, Cornelius Washington, Bacarri Rambo, Abry Jones, Kwame Geathers, Michael Gilliard, Christian Robinson and Branden Smith were all leaving.  Had Jarvis Jones stayed I would not expect him to match last season’s production (24.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks).  Jones was a focal point of opposition preparation in 2012 (as was Clowney), but he would get an even larger share of film study and double-teams with less experienced talent surrounding him.

I think that will be the case for Clowney in 2013.

Prediction

Again, Clowney’s greatness (and he is truly great), cannot be measured simply by statistics, so I’m going to use a different basis for prediction.  Clowney finished 6th in Heisman voting in 2012.  My prediction: He will not finish in the Top 6 this year.

That’s all I got/

Andrew

This Post is Graphic in Nature: Why Gurshall Will Take a Step Back in 2013, Georgia Fans Need to Lower Expectations


Tuesday Doomsday: Gurshall will not be as good in 2013.

This is the first in a series of posts that will discredit the hype surrounding a given college football subject.  Coaches, players, teams and other things will all come under fire.  In an effort to avoid bigotry, the very first subject at hand will be Georgia’s dynamic duo: my beloved Gurshall.  

In 2012 two freshmen running backs at the University of Georgia, Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley, combined to rush for 2,144 yards and 25 TDs.  Gurshall became more than a phonetically convenient nickname for the duo as they combined to shatter the freshman numbers of Herschel Walker (Gurshall accounted for 666 more yards of offense and 12 more touchdowns).

If I wanted to get picky, I’d say the “combined” comparisons aren’t necessary, because Todd Gurley’s freshman campaign was as good as Herschel Walker’s.  Sure, Walker edged Gurley in yardage (1686 to 1502), but Gurley registered 18 total touchdowns (17 on the ground, one on a kick return) to Walker’s 15 and averaged 6.31 yards per offensive touch to Herschel’s 6.0.

And, the case for Keith Marshall relative to Gurley is compelling.  Marshall averaged more yards per carry (6.5 to 6.2) and more yards per catch than Gurley (8.3 to 7.3).  He also registered three runs (two against Tennessee, one against Auburn) that were longer than any run Todd Gurley put up in 2012.

Gurshall puts me, a Georgia fan, on slippery ground.  On one hand, I’m going to be labeled blasphemous for even alluding to the fact that Todd Gurley might have had a better freshman season in 2012 than Herschel Walker did back in 1980.  On the other hand, I’m going to be ridiculed if I don’t declare both Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall as Heisman candidates heading into 2013.  If you aren’t a Georgia fan, that might not make sense to you, but perhaps this will help you understand the paradox:

The average Georgia fan over the age of 40 will tell you these things about Herschel Walker with the utmost in sincerity:  Herschel was 245 pounds, ran a 4.2 forty-yard dash and could pick-and-choose whether he was running around the defense or through the defense on any given play.  I certainly mean no disrespect to Herschel (the greatest player in SEC history), but if that was the case why did he only average 6.0 yards per touch in 1980?  In reality, Herschel was big and he was fast.  He wasn’t substantially bigger than Todd Gurley (both were 6-1, Herschel’s playing weight was 225 while Gurley is listed at 232).  He wasn’t necessarily faster than Gurley or Marshall – Herschel ran the 100 meter dash in 10.9 seconds,  Gurley ran it in 10.7, Marshall ran it in 10.44.  Is that football speed?  Not necessarily, but I’m not an easy sell with regards to the “Herschel was definitely faster than Marshall in pads” product.

I say everything that I’ve said in this intro to make three points:

  1. Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall had phenomenal freshman campaigns.
  2. The general consensus among Bulldog fans is that they will dominate to an even greater extent in 2013.
  3. I will probably get burned at the stake for this, but I don’t think they will produce at the same level in 2013.

Before I’m accused of Don Draper hashish-inspired hallucinations, let’s take a closer look.

Yes.  Let’s take a closer look now.

Todd Gurley

We all know what Todd Gurley did as a whole last year, but some of his inconsistency is ignored – and perhaps rightfully so.  Nonetheless, Gurley’s 2012 campaing was not without fault.  Yes, Gurley had nine games in which he ran for 100 or more yards and yes he had five multi-TD games.  But, he also had five games in which he rushed for fewer than 100 yards and four of those games saw him finish for under 70 yards.

  • Gurley was largely M.I.A. for long portions of the Missouri game (65 yards, 1 TD)
  • He (and the rest of the team) was terrible against South Carolina (13 carries, 39 yards, 0 TDs)
  • He was disappointing against Kentucky (12 carries, 47 yards, 0 TDs)
  • He was mediocre against Georgia Southern (15 carries, 68 yards, 1 TD)

Furthermore, much of Gurley’s statistical impressiveness was a result of his hot start.  This graph shows Gurley’s cumulative yards per carry as the season progressed.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

His early production was as important and as credible as any success he had late in the season, but it tapered off severely.  I’m not sure that we should necessarily expect the early domination he had in 2012 as he faces Clemson, South Carolina and LSU  early in 2013.  And, if Gurley had a lower “starting point” in the realm of yards per carry, who’s to say that his season average might not be significantly lower?

Along those same lines, the following chart shows Gurley’s cumulative touchdowns per carry over the course of the season.

gurleytds

Click to enlarge.

Lastly, Georgia is playing with a young and inexperienced defense this season.  If that defense proves to be a weakness for the team, expect Georgia to strive for a more ball-control oriented approach to offense.  What does that mean for Gurley?  Most likely an increase in carries.

Perhaps his average load will increase from 16 carries per game to 20.  Sounds great, right?  Not necessarily.  Four times last season (against Tennessee, Florida, Alabama and Nebraska) Gurley carried the ball 20+ times.  He failed to match his season average of 6.23 yards per carry in all four of those games (combined he averaged 5.1 ypc in those games).

Keith Marshall

Marshall might be destined for stardom, but a lot remains unknown about him as far as collegiate production is concerned.  Like Gurley, the more Marshall touched the ball in 2012 the less productive he was.  On the season Marshall averaged 6.48 yards per carry.  In his three games with more than ten carries (yes, only three: Missouri, South Carolina, Ole Miss) he averaged only 2.77 yards per carry.

More concerning, however, was Marshall’s general disappearance at times in 2012.  Whether this was schematic, coaching-based or a reflection of skillset shortcomings, he had a tendency to be on the sideline in close games:

  • Against Kentucky (a surprisingly and depressingly close game): 6 carries, 23 yards, 0 TDs.
  • Against Florida: 4 carries, 4 yards, 0 TDs.
  • Against Alabama: 2 carries, 3 yards, 0 TDs.

When over 21% of your season is reflected by the following statline, I’m going to have a few doubts:

12 carries, 30 yards, 0 TDs

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

The chart above represents a number of things:

  1. Marshall was extremely erratic in rushing production (yards as measured by the blue line).
  2. Case in point: he averaged 54 yards per game (the green line), but he never registered a total of rushing yards within 5 yards of his season average (that range being: 49-59).  Expand those parameters to 10 yards (44-64 yards) and you still will only find one game (the season opener against Buffalo).  Even with 15 yards of variation (in either direction) from his season average (39-69 yards) only two games (the aforementioned Buffalo game and Georgia Tech) can be found.  That’s crazy!  Seriously, as I type this my mind hole is getting blown.  Maybe I am having Draper-like mind manipulations.
  3. Marshall’s season peaked against Tennessee – both on an individual game basis (blue line) and cumulative season yardage average basis (red line).
  4. Marshall’s three best games – FAU, Tennessee, Auburn – were against teams who combined to win a total of two games against BCS Conference opponents.

Gurshall

Lastly, Georgia was extremely fortunate on the health front last year.  The offensive line was largely in-tact allowing Gurshall to run, but more importantly, neither Marshall or Gurley missed significant time to injury.  That doesn’t happen often.  To further that point, last year was the first year since 1993 that neither of Georgia’s top-two rushers missed a game:

  • 2012: Todd Gurley, 0 games missed.  Keith Marshall, 0 games missed.
  • 2011: Isaiah Crowell, 2 games missed.  Carlton Thomas, 4 games missed.
  • 2010: Washaun Ealey, 1 game missed.  Caleb King, 5 games missed.
  • 2009: Washaun Ealey, 4 games missed.  Caleb King, 3 games missed.
  • 2008: Knowshon Moreno, 0 games missed.  Caleb King, 2 games missed.
  • 2007: Knowshon Moreno, 0 games missed.  Thomas Brown, 3 games missed.
  • 2006: Kregg Lumpkin, 0 games missed.  Danny Ware, 1 games missed.
  • 2005: Thomas Brown, 1 game missed.  Danny Ware, 0 games missed.
  • 2004: Thomas Brown, 1 game missed.  Danny Ware, 1 game missed.
  • 2003: Michael Cooper, 1 game missed.  Kregg Lumpkin, 2 games missed.
  • 2002: Musa Smith, 1 game missed.  Tony Milton, 0 games missed.
  • 2001: Verron Haynes, 2 games missed. Musa Smith, 3 games missed.
  • 2000: Brett Millican, 1 game missed.  Jasper Sanks, 3 games missed.
  • 1999: Jasper Sanks, 1 game missed.  Patrick Pass, 1 game missed.
  • 1998: Olandis Gary, 1 game missed.  Quincy Carter, 1 game missed.
  • 1997: Robert Edwards, 2 games missed.  Olandis Gary, 1 game missed.
  • 1996: Robert Edwards, 0 games missed.  Patrick Pass, 1 game missed.
  • 1995: Torin Kirtsey, 2 games missed.  Robert Edwards, 10 games missed.
  • 1994: Terrell Davis, 3 games missed.  Hines Ward, 0 games missed.

So, in nineteen years only one duo managed to play in every single game for the Bulldogs.  From 1994-2011 the average top-2 rusher for UGA missed 1.78 games.  Gurshall combined to miss 0 last year.

If it’s ridiculous to expect Herschel to ever be replicated then I think it is at the very least unreasonable to expect a second-consecutive season of Gurshall playing in every single game.

Application/Prediction

Gurshall won’t have a bad season.  The two-headed monster has too much talent and focus to disappear.  But, fans should taper expectations a bit.  With that in mind, here are a few predictions:

  • Gurshall accounts for fewer rushing yards in 2013 than in 2012.
  • Keith Marshall closes the yardage gap with Todd Gurley.
  • Neither player averages 6.0 yards per carry.
  • Neither player rushes for more than 15 TDs.

If you know me, then you know I hope I’m wrong about all of this.  Now go on, hit me with a deluge of hate.

That’s all I got/

Andrew

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