In 2011, the running game was a hodgepodge of effectiveness mixed with nonexistence. In 2012, it was the cornerstone of the Dawgs' resurgence. At the end of the season, we ask "Why?"
A quick look at the statistics (available to you at GeorgiaDogs.com) will show that UGA in 2012 only gained 300 yards more on the ground than the 2011 team on the season. However, we all sit back and think that the 2012 team was so much more efficient in running the football than the 2011 one.
Why is that? First, it begins with Todd Gurley, the surprising freshman who rushed for over 1400 yards on his own. Granted, many who follow recruiting closely, knew that Gurley was a huge get in this recruiting class, but much of the hype was around Keith Marshall, who was the higher-ranked recruit coming out of high school, as well as an early enrollee for 2012. Marshall was no slouch himself, racking up nearly 800 yards rushing on the season, creating the best 1-2 punch in Georgia's offense since 2007, when Knowshon Moreno and Thomas Brown created fits for opposing defenses.
The secret isn't in the freshmen, however. The "secret" is actually "secrets" in that the real keys lie in two places. The first would be found in the capable hands of the man who wears the number 11 in Aaron Murray. Murray passed for nearly 1000 yards more in 2012 than 2011, and the true danger of his ability to throw for 15+ yards on any given play allowed for the running game to open up in ways that weren't possible last year.
The second worst-kept secret is the offensive line. When Will Friend was hired, it was met with a collective "meh" from the Bulldog Nation, who wanted a name to go along with the all-important title. Over Mark Richt's era, it seems that Offensive Line issues have plagued the Dawgs, either through poor recruiting or by sheer bad luck. However, Will Friend has taken a patchwork offensive line and found a way to create something more than functional. Granted, UGA only gave up six less sacks on the year, but doesn't it feel like outside of the South Carolina game, Murray was MUCH more protected than the year prior? Add on the fact that we were working with first year starters in tackle John Theus as well as center David Andrews, and what seemlingly was our biggest fear going into 2012 ended up being one of our best strengths.
So what do we take away from 2012 and our running game? Well, Aaron Murray announced that he's returning, the entire offensive line returns, and we have Gurshall for at least two more years. When you add all that up, you get a recipe for literally more of the same for 2013. Sure, we're not going to be taking anyone by surprise in regards to the running game, but if anyone loads the box against Gurshall, Murray will have a field day.
Let's just face it, folks. 2012 was the year that Mark Richt finally got the offense he's always wanted to run at Georgia, and he gets nearly that entire offense back for 2013. That means the offense that scored nearly 100 points more than the year prior will be just as strong and a year older when the Dawgs take the field against Clemson.
Oh, and thanks Mike Bobo. I'd be foolish not to mention all that you've done, but truthfully, you're just doing what we'd all hoped for you to do all along. Keep up the great work.
Until next time kids.