I don’t know about you, but it’s been surreal to think about how blessed the University of Georgia has been at the running back position in recent memory.
Glancing past wonderful backs of yesteryear like Olandis Gary, Robert Edwards, Rodney Hampton and Garrison Hearst (among others, **coughHerschelcough**), the fact that Kregg Lumpkin, Danny Ware, Thomas Brown, Knowshon Moreno, Isaiah Crowell, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall are all from the same time span, is truly remarkable.
It’s even more remarkable to think that UGA may currently have a back as good, if not better than Gurley is downright frightening — for the rest of the Southeastern Conference — but that’s exactly the case with the phenomenal Nick Chubb. In fact, when we think about the handful of games the two played together, due to Gurley’s suspension and subsequent injury, it may take on a life all of itself as I expect both to be at the top of the heap in the NFL in a few seasons. (Like those crazy stories my uncles used to tell me about Herschel and my guy, Bo Jackson.)
But as it pertains to the national scope, the University of Alabama — with names like Glen Coffee, Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy, T.J. Yeldon, Kenyan Drake and Derrick Henry — certainly can lay claim to the title of “Running Back University,” especially with Ingram being one of the rare backs to win the prestigious Heisman Trophy.
But with what I suspect Chubb will get accomplished this season, all that may change as he has as good a chance as any to find his name etched right beside Ingram and the rest of the trophy winners. And moreover, the Bulldogs looked prime as ever to procure that elusive national championship behind a stacked defense and a bevy of elite coaches.
This kid is that special.
Thomas Brown Effect
One major aspect that has been lost in the chaos that is the offseason is the return of former star running back Thomas Brown as the newly minted running back’s coach. As, perhaps, my favorite Bulldog player of all time, I recognize the greatness of Brown as both a player and a coach; Chubb soon will, too.
If you were going to pick a former player to coach up a position he played, you’d be hard pressed to find someone more qualified than Brown. Well, maybe qualified is too general of a term as it goes way beyond that.
The 5’8″, 185-pound Brown undoubtedly got the most out of his frame through hard work and dedication to his craft. He wasn’t the fastest nor the biggest, but he always managed to maximize the most of his opportunities — so the results usually seemed pretty giant.
Think about it; how would a super freak the likes of Adrian Peterson teach others how to operate? He’s just flat-out more talented than everyone else. A guy like Brown had to make sure he was well-rounded to even get on the field over guys like Lumpkin, Ware and Moreno — each of whom were bigger, faster and stronger. (Well, maybe not stronger.)
So imagine the amount of knowledge flowing through the meeting room with a coach who shined brightest under pressure not even a decade ago. I can all but guarantee Chubb will be thanking Brown for instilling all his knowledge in him during his formative years as a player. And logistically speaking, Brown’s presence couldn’t have come at a better time as most are fearing a sophomore slump for the SEC’s hardest working player.
Chubb’s Scheme Versatility
One thing even the staunchest of Mike Bobo critics have to agree on is the fact that his scheme evolved over the stretch that he was under head coach Mark Richt’s guidance as offensive coordinator. Going from a ferocious gap-blocking scheme centered around various power concepts — G-Lead, Iso, Power O, Whams and Traps (among others) — Bobo left UGA with a diverse attack equipped with plenty of inside and outside zone concepts.
But it’s still UGA; it often derives power from what one might consider finesse.
New offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s scheme is akin to Bobo’s, which means backs have to be adept at both gap- and zone-blocking principles. Chubb is the epitome of scheme versatility as he could undoubtedly generate over 1,000 yards in any scheme known to man.
While some might think that’s easy to do, it’s a lot harder than one might think.
Despite possessing blistering 4.4 40-yard dash speed, the once-great great Darren McFadden (6’1″, 220 pounds) — of Arkansas Razorbacks fame — struggled mightily to navigate area concepts under zone savant Greg Knapp, as he lacked both patience and vision.
But in a GBS, when healthy, he used his explosiveness to chew up yardage in chunks.
Chubb, 5’10”, 220 pounds, possesses the requisite vision, burst, power, agility and, most importantly, instincts to navigate any scheme put in front of him.
Here we see Chubb navigating Inside Power: The run was designed to go through the left A-gap with a lead from the front-side guard, No. 54 Brandon Kublanow, but Chubb instinctively sniffed out the “Fill” defender and bounced it through the right B-gap — shaking a third-level defender’s jock loose in the process.
Encountering Chubb with a two-way go is a nightmarish scenario for any defender involved as he can run by you or through you.
Here’s Chubb navigating zone principles with a lead blocker; he recognized the importance of stretching the zone out past the numbers instead of finding the organic cutback crease. I often marvel at Chubb’s open-field prowess, as he’s a ton more agile than given credit for. In fact, my study revealed he’d much rather shake a defender opposed to cremating him, and when you consider how much he answered the bell as freshman (30 or more carries in three games), that becomes a very underrated aspect of his game.
Check out Chubb executing this middle screen — with a little help from his friends, of course. Chubb, much like his predecessor Gurley, has soft hands and understands spacing. Schottenheimer has a vast array of concepts as it pertains to the screen game, and you can bet your bottom dollar Chubb will be heavily involved. When fans ask me about the possibility of a sophomore slump for Chubb, I usually retort with Chubb becoming more effective in areas beyond just toting the rock; the screen game will be that aspect.
But another aspect we cant count on will be Chubb getting even more involved in pass-protection, because when you can block it helps to sell the screen game that much more. If defenders know you can’t protect the QB, they will slow play you for the screen game by nature.
Here’s Chubb picking up a rusher in a Double A-gap blitz: his read was inside/out, but he correctly diagnosed the immediate threat through the A-gap and stepped up to meet the collision head on.
The first priority in pass-pro will, virtually, always be the immediate pressure in a QB’s face as he can usually avoid an edge-rush by simply climbing the pocket, but up-the-gut pressure means he has to slide the pocket and re-adjust his sight lines, which could throw off the timing of a play.
Luckily Chubb is a ready, willing and able blocker who will only improve under the guidance of one of the best pass-protectors I can remember in Coach Brown. In Chubb, the ‘Dawgs have a versatile, explosive, tough back who is already solid in numerous aspects of his game, so imagine when he fortifies every single characteristic?
Georgia is stacked on defense, has plenty of impact offensive targets and the most polished offensive line in the country for whichever QB wins the starting gig. Moreover, it has the premier running back in all of college football with a slew of capable runners behind him.
This is shaping up to be a special year, Dawg Nation.