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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.

DirectionCarries
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?

10 comments:

Sam said...

David, I take it no freshmen/new blood are in the mix for playing time on the 0-line?

Randy Powers said...

Clint Boling is an elder statesman along that line and does have a bit of nasty in him. Hopefully this will make a noticeable impact in the running game. Question is, will this simply move the DAWGS best point-of-attack blocker to the other side or have some carryover effect to the rest of the line?

Spencer said...

Chris over at Smartfootball linked to a stat breakdown of running games that I wish I could find. It evaluated the offensive line's performance by discounting long runs (because long runs are often because the RB breaks a tackle on a safety). The idea is that a run for a loss is the OL's fault. The first five yards of a run are typically the OL's work, the next five (5-10 yards) are somewhat, and anything over ten isn't worth any credit to the OL other than the first ten yards.

The equation (as good as I can remember) is that you can add up the total yardage from run plays as follows

Negative plays = full credit
0-5 yards = full credit
6-10 yards = 5 yards + half of the distance over 5 yards.
10 yards + = 7.5 yards.

So an 8 yard run would be worth 6.5 yards to put towards the total.

The end result is that you really find out whether the O-line is getting a good push/creating holes or if the RB is just breaking long ones all the time.

I'd be interested to see this applied to UGA this season.

Wish I could find the link and/or remember the terms for this.

Ant123 said...

David, Our run blocking has been awful. And if moving Boling can help gret. Consider that in 1980 Carnie Norris ran for 150 yds in a game agains Ole Miss. Not knocking him but any of the guys your mentioning here has more raw talent. The fact that 20% of our runs have been 0 or negative says it all. That does not happen behind a good line.

Anonymous said...

I don't think this helps our overall offense at all. So moving Boling to LT allows us to run the ball better to the left. So what, that then causes a void on the right side, causing us to do worse there. What am I missing here?

David Hale said...

Well I think the theory is that left is harder to play and comes with a lot more demands on the tackle in the passing game. If you swap Boling and Cordy, for example, maybe Cordy handles the right side better than he handled the left, while Boling has already proven he's a capable left tackle.

Not saying it's a solution -- just saying it's probably worth a shot at this point.

JONATHAN ASHER said...

Disgression? Dude...
For as intelligent a writer as you are, that had to be a brain fart.

Anonymous said...

Why not have your best lineman at left tackle all the time. As soon as TS went down Boling should have been moved over. Vance does not need to be on the field right now, he is clearly not recovered from his knee injury.

Gemstones4u said...

With the exception of Boling, I would have never thought these O-lineman would be as soft as they are.

wilson.barry said...

I'm tired of hearing about how valuable Trinton Sturdevant is, he hasn't played for 2 years now. A top 20 program just plugs another guy in.
Line coaching the last 3 years: epic fail !