Nick Chubb gaining ground in Year 2 under Kirby Smart
In his first year as the main man at Georgia in 2016, running back Nick Chubb slowed down a bit for first year head coach Kirby Smart. It wasn’t a bad season, with 224 carries for 1,130 yards and eight TDs (5.0 yards per carry), but it was a step down from his brilliant 1,547-yard freshman season or 8.1 ypc sophomore campaign.
The main reasons for this are fairly straightforward, Georgia is in Year 2 of a new offensive system and both Chubb and his blockers are working in increasingly tight cohesion to make it all work. The main blocking system that has been unleashing Chubb? Tight or inside zone.
Georgia’s tight zone play
The Dawgs run the play for Chubb in three main ways, from a four-receiver set with quarterback Jake Fromm accounting for any extra defenders sneaking into the box with either a pass or run option:
By having the QB option off one of the defenders up front, it becomes a five-on-five contest between the remaining defenders up front and the offensive linemen. Georgia has been killing it on the double teams on inside zone (you get one in this instance) and Chubb bursts through the gap the double creates for a score.
The other two ways involve the tight end, often off the line in an H-back set. The first is the weak zone run, in which the RB is aiming for the A-gap opposite the TE and making a decision and cut from there, often into the cutback.
The split zone run is a nice complement to both weak inside zone and the zone read; this time the H-back cuts back across the grain of the play to kick out the unblocked edge player.
You can see on this one the immense value of handling that defensive end with the H-back, which lets left tackle Isaiah Wynn fly upfield and pick off a linebacker. In fact on all three of our examples you’ll notice that Wynn is prominently involved in helping to create the crease.
Overall the Georgia offensive line is significantly improved from a year ago, even with two freshmen on the right side. Wynn has been a known commodity for a while, but consistent execution of the inside zone play lets the rest of the Dawg OL get after it.
They’re particularly great when they can run the ball behind double teams on the left side of the line, which features the smaller but savvier and perhaps quicker pair of Wynn and Kendall Baker (6 feet 6, 287 pounds) while big right guard Solomon Kindley (6-4, 341) and right tackle Andrew Thomas (6-5, 320) use their size to screen smaller DLs across from them.
Chubb on inside zone
So the Dawgs have a winner with the inside zone play, particularly when they can get a double team that releases center Lamont Gaillard or either member of the left side of the OL to get downfield and take out more defenders. This also all depends on Fromm executing their various constraints to prevent opponents from loading the box and outnumbering the play.
But Chubb is not an insignificant factor in all of this and he knows how to read his blocks and attack multiple areas in the same blocking scheme. On the plays above he heads for his first aiming point, the A-gap opposite where he initially lined up, and tends to find success, but there’s more to running than that.
Here’s an example of a weak zone run where Chubb heads for the A-gap and immediately finds a lane but also shows some other abilities.
The hard cut inside of the left guard that Chubb makes is no joke; not just any player can plant and go with his power and speed. What’s more, he makes another cut in his next few steps to blow by the safety. It looks easy here but there are plenty of backs that wouldn’t have maximized that run to that extent.
Here’s an example against superior competition, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
It’s weak zone again. Notre Dame slows Wynn by lining up big 6-4, 290 pound DE Jay Hayes across from him. Wynn manages to trade him off to the TE and still get a paw on one linebacker but meanwhile the Irish middle linebacker shoots a gap in recognition of the play and foils the read.
Chubb then effortlessly changes direction and wins the edge (thanks Andrew Thomas!), jukes the cornerback with ease then pushes the safety out of the way in his pursuit of a first down.
Chubb’s vision and cuts, combined with his power and burst through the hole, make him the perfect back for inside zone. He can power through interior gaps, bounce runs to the edge if teams load up the middle too much, then make the most of his runs once he’s in open grass. Much of the rest of the Georgia offense is built around what they can do around this main concept. They’re killing with it and it’s all working.