The Fullback Is Back: Quayvon Hicks and the Belated Revival of a Critical Component of Mark Richt's Offense

Fullback with breakaway speed. - Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Is the fullback simply an anachronism who has no place in the revamped up-tempo Bulldog offense of 2011? Does the play-calling simply reflect the personnel present in the Classic City in the current day, given the talents of Aaron Murray and the multitude of pass-catching weapons (including Bruce Figgins) at Mike Bobo’s disposal? Is the need to use the fullback as a blocker rather than a ballcarrier reflective of the thinness of the offensive line and the inexperience of the tailback rotation, or is a potentially worthwhile element of the arsenal going unused?

Dawg Sports (December 16, 2011)

Let us now praise Quayvon Hicks, whose revival of the fullback position for the Georgia Bulldogs has prompted poetic odes and T-shirt designs, and who appears to have answered, emphatically, the concerns I expressed in the above-quoted article 21 months ago.

Two games into the season, Hicks is the Classic City Canines’ third-leading rusher with seven attempts for 66 yards, three first downs, a touchdown, and a team-best 9.43 yards-per-carry average. Hicks also is the Bulldogs’ fifth-leading receiver with two catches for 61 yards, two first downs, and a team-best 30.5 yards-per-catch average. As a receiver, Hicks trails only Keith Marshall among Red and Black backs, and, on the whole, he has proven to be Georgia’s goal-line offense . . . on the Athenians’ own goal line, that is. In short, the autumn’s opening outings have offered us ample incentive to keep calm and Quayvon.

Is this, though, merely a regression to the Mark Richt mean, or do we have something special on our hands? To determine the answer to that question, we must look back to the Georgia fullbacks of (relative) yore. Here, then, are the numbers posted by Coach Richt’s previous fullbacks two games into each of his first twelve seasons:

Year Starting FB Carries Yards TDs Catches Yards TDs
2001 J.T. Wall/Verron Haynes* 6 29 0 0 0 0
2002 J.T. Wall 1 14 0 0 0 0
2003 Jeremy Thomas 2 5 0 0 0 0
2004 Des Williams 3 -6 0 0 0 0
2005 Brannan Southerland 2 1 0 0 0 0
2006 Brannan Southerland 3 20 0 0 0 0
2007 Brannan Southerland 2 5 1 0 0 0
2008 Shaun Chapas 0 0 0 3 6 0
2009 Shaun Chapas 1 3 0 2 14 0
2010 Shaun Chapas 2 10 0 3 8 1
2011 Bruce Figgins 0 0 0 3 36 0
2012 Merritt Hall 0 0 0 0 0 0

* The Bulldogs opened the 2001 season in a three-wide receiver set, so there was no starting fullback in the autumn’s first game. J.T. Wall played fullback in the opener, and Verron Haynes started at fullback in the season’s second game. The numbers provided combine Wall’s game one numbers with Haynes’s game two numbers.

I’m not going to swear on a stack of Bibles that every one of those zeroes is legitimate---it’s possible that, in some cases, NCAA-truncated media guides simply did not list totals too low to register---but the lesson appears pretty clear: Quayvon is outperforming the norm at a position that historically has been a contributing part of Coach Richt’s offense. Hicks’s seven carries, 66 rushing yards, and one rushing touchdown all top the list for Coach Richt’s fullbacks through the first two games of a season, and his 61 receiving yards also are the most amassed by a 21st-century Georgia fullback eight quarters into an autumn. His two receptions only narrowly trail the three catches apiece corralled by Shaun Chapas in 2008 and again in 2010, and by Bruce Figgins in 2011.

A quick compilation of the totals reveals how effective a weapon Hicks has been this season. Quayvon’s combined rushing and receiving touchdowns come to one, matching the high water mark set by Chapas in 2010. Hicks’s cumulative nine carries and catches equal the collective tallies of J.T. Wall’s and Verron Haynes’s six rushes in 2001 and Chapas’s and Figgins’s three receptions. Finally, the 2013 Georgia fullback’s 127 total yards from scrimmage far exceed the sum of 65 yards arrived at by adding together the Wall/Haynes combo’s 29 yards on the ground in 2001 and Figgins’s 36 yards through the air a decade later.

Frankly, Quayvon Hicks would be doing his job adequately if all he did was clear a path for Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall (which he has done quite well: "Gurshall" has 387 yards and four touchdowns on 65 carries so far this season), but he is doing much more than that. Two games into the 2013 season, Hicks has been as effective a blocker, a runner, and a receiver as the Red and Black have had at fullback in the Mark Richt era. At a time when the Georgia offense is as potent as it has ever been, one critical key to the Bulldogs’ continued success is to keep letting Quayvon be Quayvon.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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