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Monday, May 13, 2013
Georgia offense hopes to build on 2012

By David Ching

ATHENS, Ga. -- If Georgia's offense is to match or exceed last season's record-breaking point totals, it's not the confidence the Bulldogs developed last fall that will provide the spark.

Aaron Murray and Mike Bobo
Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and QB Aaron Murray depth of knowledge in the scheme are making the Bulldogs more effective.
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said the next two months -- when senior quarterback Aaron Murray will lead summer workouts -- will determine whether his veteran offense maintains its explosiveness from a year ago.

"I think a lot of our success last year was due to the summer we had, and he led it -- getting guys there, getting them to participate, really buying into his vision last summer of what we wanted in the summer," Bobo said at last Thursday's UGA Days event in Augusta. "... I feel really comfortable about where we're at and the direction we're going this summer. Now it's going to be up to those guys, because summer's huge for the players' development."

With Murray directing the passing game and freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall adding big-play ability out of the backfield, the Bulldogs ranked among the nation's most explosive offenses.

They rewrote Georgia's single-season offensive record book -- including new marks for points per game (37.8), total offense (467.6 ypg) and yards in a single game (713 vs. Florida Atlantic) -- and led the nation with an average of 7.09 yards per play. Although a flimsy non-conference schedule contributed to those numbers, no matter how you break down the stats, Georgia ranked among the most dangerous big-play threats in the country.

And yet Bobo hammered home the point throughout spring practice that despite 10 returning starters, success in one season won't necessarily carry over to the next, particularly if his players allow themselves to become too satisfied with what they've already accomplished.

That said, however, Bobo believes the driving forces in last season's success are still in place:

The quarterback
It all starts with Murray, who in his fourth season as the Bulldogs' starting quarterback could own most of the SEC's career passing records by season's end. After redshirting in 2009, Murray has started every game since and has developed the knowledge to put the offense in the right plays on occasions where an audible is necessary and the resiliency that comes with experience.

"I think one, you've got a quarterback that's basically a fourth-year player. He's playing year three in your system. I think that's one thing," Bobo said.

The skill talent
Murray was not the only veteran whose familiarity with Georgia's offensive scheme helped things run smoothly last fall. The Bulldogs benefited from the leadership of two senior receivers in Tavarres King and Marlon Brown, while less experienced playmakers like wideouts Michael Bennett, Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Conley and tight ends Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome grew into their roles.

Their knowledge base in Georgia's second season employing a no-huddle offense at times where Bobo wanted to pick up the pace helped the Bulldogs keep defenses on their heels.

"It's so much easier, definitely as a no-huddle offense, to have everyone back and know what they're doing, be able to line up quickly, call the play and go instead of having to make sure everyone knows what they're doing, tell them what to do," Murray said. "It slows it down and lets the defense get set up. So it definitely helps that those guys know what they're doing."

An even bigger factor was the steady play of tailbacks Gurley and Marshall, who as true freshmen accounted for 2,144 yards on the ground and 25 rushing touchdowns. Contrast that to the nightmare scenario from 2011, when tailbacks Isaiah Crowell, Carlton Thomas and Ken Malcome were a steady source of injury or disciplinary concerns, and the Bulldogs struggled to develop a consistent ground game.

The smarts
One of the lesser-known aspects of the Bulldogs' success, Bobo said, is that the offense boasted an intelligent collection of players. Murray's smarts at the line of scrimmage are evident to the informed viewer, but it's a more challenging observation to make with players at other positions.

Obviously it takes dynamic playmaking ability for Gurley and Marshall to break 12 runs that covered at least 25 yards, or for King to average a whopping 22.6 yards per catch. But Bobo said Will Friend's workmanlike offensive line that relied on brains as much as sheer physical skill made that production possible.

"We have a smart group that the wasted plays I felt like we were going to be able to keep to a minimum -- the drive killers, the self-inflicted wound because we ran it in the wrong look or we did not fan this look because they walked a guy on the line," Bobo said. "We had very few missed assignments and just self-inflicted stuff that kills drives. That's what kills offenses, your execution."

The scheme
Give Bobo some credit, as well, for adapting to the times. He implemented the situational no-huddle attack in 2011, and the Bulldogs led the SEC in offensive plays per game -- and that was with an often one-dimensional offense because of the uncertainty in the backfield.

Once Gurley and Marshall gave Georgia a consistent rushing threat, the numbers exploded last season. And Bobo was able to experiment with other fresh looks, like Gurley runs out of the pistol formation and a controlled shotgun passing game that one might expect to see from a Big 12 spread offense.

He faced steady criticism only a couple of years ago for running a stagnant scheme with two running plays and then a deep pass on the average drive, but the weapons at his disposal last fall allowed Bobo to get more creative, and he made good use of the opportunity.

"We're going to always run the ball, OK, but we're not really that draw or draw-pass team anymore," Bobo said. "We're a little more one-back, we're a little more controlled passing. I still throw it downfield at times, but we're a little higher percentage, which is getting our playmakers the ball with a chance to do something, and those guys did it. They got to the second level, and they broke a tackle and went to the house. They threw to the underneath [receiver], and the guy made a play after the catch. It wasn't we had to hit a bomb to have a big play."

Next step
With every regular except King back from last season's offense, it's only natural to expect bigger and better things from the Bulldogs this fall. As long as his players heed his warnings about complacency, similar production should be well within their reach.

And Bobo has an easy example that can help drive home his point -- Georgia's defense from last year, which disappointed somewhat after returning nearly everyone from a unit that ranked fifth nationally in total defense in 2011.

"We've got basically the whole offense coming back except for a couple guys, but that don't mean anything," Gurley said. "Just like last year we had the whole defense coming back, but they didn't actually do what they did the year before. So we've just got to keep working and just getting better at little things as far as running, passing, minimizing mistakes and turnovers and everything like that. So we're just going to keep working."