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Branch: UGA Getting Balance on Offense Now

ATHENS - Jonathan Branch looks at how the Bulldogs are starting to get balanced on offense.

Georgia escaped Lexington two weeks ago with a 27-24 victory over Kentucky, and while a road win over the Cats was badly needed for morale, perhaps more encouraging was Georgia’s success and commitment to balance on offense. That spilled over to this weekend with the upset over Auburn.

But let's concentrate on the win over the Cats, because that's where things seem to have changed for this offense.

The Bulldogs racked up 215 yards on the ground and 245 yards through the air. After meeting with offensive coordinator Jim Chaney during the week, Nick Chubb (21 carries) and Sony Michel (19 carries) each saw an increased workload from the Florida game. Quarterback Jacob Eason spread the ball around to seven different receivers and led a pair of fourth quarter scoring drives while completing seven of 10 his final passes for 83 yards.

After the Ole Miss game, when Chubb suffered an ankle injury, I wrote that Georgia should use that as an opportunity to spread things out. The reasons being that Chubb is most suitable for an offense that operates in ace and I formations, while Michel is more suited for the gun. Eason is also more comfortable in the gun, and that added room doesn’t put so much responsibility on a struggling offensive line.

Against Kentucky, that fruits of that approach were on full display. The Bulldogs clearly found success on the ground and in the air, and it was apparent both during the game and upon further review that the offense saw much of its success from shotgun and spread formations.

In fact, Georgia ran 39 plays out of the shotgun that accumulated 274 yards, good for 7.03 yards per play. The Bulldogs tallied 186 yards on 34 plays (5.47 yards per play) under center.

That’s pretty good evidence that Georgia can be balanced with a lean towards a spread scheme, not an old-school I-formation attack.

More specifically, Nick Chubb was featured in non-shotgun formations, while Michel was the feature back from the shotgun. That put both players in positions to be successful and kept the offense balanced.

ShotgunI Form/Ace
Chubb 3 carries, 5 yards 18 carries, 80 yards
Michel 12 carries, 101 yards 7 carries, 26 ayards

Georgia operated mostly from the gun on pass plays, but it can’t be overlooked that the longest play of the game, a 51-yard pass from Eason to Javon Wims, came when Eason was under center.

Eason was 4-of-8 for 79 yards under center. The freshman signal caller was 13-of-23 for 166 yards and a touchdown out of the shotgun.

OL keeps Eason clean; Wynn fills in nicely at LT

Georgia didn’t allow a sack against Kentucky. That’s the first time all season Eason’s been kept clean in the pocket. Additionally, Kentucky was credited with only two quarterback hurries all game.

Without taking away credit from the offensive line, their successful day is largely a result of facing a Kentucky defensive front that Georgia matched up well against; Kentucky ranks just 96th in the NCAA in sacks with 15.

However, the big men up front rose to the challenge in the fourth quarter and gave their young signal caller a chance to win the game.

After left tackle Tyler Catalina went down with an injury in the fourth quarter, junior Isaiah Wynn slid over from his left guard spot to protect Eason’s blindside. Lamont Gaillard moved from right guard to left guard, and Dyshon Sims filled in at right guard.

Trailing at the time of the injury, Georgia was in a situation that required passing the ball, and Wynn, who started the final five games of 2015 at left tackle after playing the first eight at left guard, handled the mid-game switch with ease.

Wynn allowed zero pressures on 10 pass plays at left tackle. Sims and Gaillard also handled the changes without issue.

Catalina came back for the Auburn win, but it’s a positive sign that Georgia was able to seamlessly piece together an offensive line late in the game that allowed Eason and company to pull off another come-from-behind SEC road win. You saw, too, that when Wynn missed time against the Tigers on Saturday that the Bulldog offense and its line were still functional. Its a major step forward. 

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