ATHENS — It has often been said that actions speak louder than words, so many Georgia fans are of the mindset the Bulldogs’ offense could open up with a more aggressive pass game this season.
It’s a thesis based on Kirby Smart hiring Air Raid guru Todd Monken as offense coordinator. Monken orchestrated the NFL’s most prolific pass attack two years ago in Tampa, the Bucs’ setting single-season franchise passing records.
Georgia All-American offensive lineman Andrew Thomas began to shake his head slowly as he was asked if he could see Smart going “pass happy” this season.
“I doubt it, O-Line is going to be big again, they’ve got a stable back there,” Thomas said at the NFL combine last week. “Georgia, the brand we play is being physical at the point of attack.
“So, obviously, they will pass the ball. But I think they are going to run a lot.”
Smart did indeed seem to downplay the notion that big changes could be in order during his National Signing Day press conference last month.
“I think everybody wants to hear some grand speech of opening this (offense) up and doing that,” Smart said.
“What you need is to be productive offensively, score points, and do the explosive plays, which we have talked about consistently.”
Georgia was tied for third in the SEC with Florida and Tennessee in “explosive” pass plays of more than 40 yards (10). Those three teams were a good bit off SEC leaders LSU (24) and Alabama (20), however.
The Bulldogs were tied for 8th in the SEC with Auburn and LSU for run plays of more than 40 yards (4).
Smart’s best team, the 2017 unit featuring NFL backs Sony Michel, Nick Chubb and projected first-round pick D’Andre Swift, had the highest run to pass ratio of any non-option team in the country.
That 2017 team also led the SEC in run plays over 40 yards (11), but had just nine pass plays over 40 yards.
Monken has told recruits — like Smart says every year — the offensive scheme will be designed around the talent.
“I think they will still run the football a lot,” said departing tailback Brian Herrien, who had 10 carries or more in five of the 12 games he played last season and led the team in rushing against Tennessee with 88 yards on 11 carries.
“It’s a run-first team, so they have all the running backs to do so. I would imagine they will keep running the ball, and it’s working.”
Offensive guard Solomon Kindley agreed.
“We’re going to run the ball,” Kindley said. “Eight people in the box, we’re still going to run the ball. We’re going to do what we do. That’s Georgia.”
Safety J.R. Reed might know Smart better than anyone, having worked the UGA offenses in practices and heard his head coach’s voice in his ear during position drills the past few years.
Reed, like Kindley, knows how Smart feels about ensuring a balanced and physical offense.
“We’re definitely going to run the ball, I’m going to tell you that,” Reed said. “Everything else, I don’t know about that, I haven’t been back to get into details of the offense.
“But I can tell you we’re going to run the ball.”
Tight end Charlie Woerner has heard all the buzz about the so-called “new” offense. But the down-to-earth Woerner claims he’s like everyone else on the outside looking in, wondering what the offense will look like.
“I’ve been asked that by friends, and I have no idea what he’s going to do,” Woerner said. “Coach Smart has always got a plan to set the team up to be the best it can be, to win football games.
“The team and the fans need to trust that Coach Smart is going to do what’s best for the organization to win football games. So I have no idea what he’s going to do, but it will be interesting to see now that I’m a fan of the team and not a player on it anymore.”
Smart offense explosive numbers
(plays of more than 40 yards)
2016 – 8 pass, 5 run
2017 – 9 pass, 11 run
2018 – 11 pass, 7 run
2019 – 10 pass, 4 run