Georgia gains on average 7.25 yards every time it snaps the football. Given a team needs only 10 yards to be awarded a fresh set of downs, one would think that’s pretty good.
It is. Only five teams in the country are averaging more. Two of them — Alabama and LSU — happen to reside in the same conference as Georgia.
Where the Bulldogs don’t stand up well is in the area of “explosive plays.” That’s not just a slang term for big plays in football. Though it is defined differently in different places, it is a statistical metric kept to calculate how often a team is gaining significant chunks of yardage on a single play.
UGA defines an “explosive” as a run of 12 or more yards or a pass of 16 or more yards. Other football entities define it as any play of 20 or more yards.
By any measure, the Bulldogs aren’t getting enough of them.
“We’ve got to be more explosive,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said Tuesday. “The runs that we have, there were about six or seven runs in there that were over 10 yards that I would argue could be home runs if one more guy gives a little more effort and gives a little more blocking. You’ve got to be able to be more explosive when you get an opportunity to do that.”
Georgia’s longest run of the season was 62 yards by freshman Kenny McIntosh against Arkansas State. D’Andre Swift and Brian Herrien each have a 40-yard run to their credit.
But it’s in the passing game where the Bulldogs have been particularly deficient at producing explosive plays. Freshman Dominick Blaylock, who had a 60-yard touchdown against Arkansas State, is the only Georgia player to record a catch of more than 50 yards this season. The longest against a Power 5 opponent is Lawrence Cager’s 38-yard catch against Vanderbilt. Freshman wideout George Pickens had Georgia’s longest play from scrimmage against South Carolina, a 33-yard catch.
Georgia ranks 89th in the nation and 11th among SEC teams with 17 passing plays of 20 or more yards this season, according to cfbstats.com.
It’s an area in which quarterback Jake Fromm and Bulldogs are acutely focused heading into Saturday’s game against Kentucky.
“(Fromm has) been helping those wideouts, challenging them, just as he was before,” Smart said after the Bulldogs’ two-hour practice Tuesday. “He was doing that before, but probably more attention to detail with that now, challenging them outside, giving them looks like we know they’re going to get.”
Smart faulted Georgia’s receivers for not getting off of jams at the line of scrimmage and creating more separation on deep balls.
The Bulldogs’ injury situation at receiver is not making it any easier. On Tuesday, Smart said Cager, Georgia’s leading receiver, likely won’t play because of a separated shoulder. Georgia has been without starting flanker Kearis Jackson since Week 1 with a broken hand.
The Bulldogs already were missing a lot of their explosiveness from last season when Mecole Hardman, Riley Ridley and Terry Godwin moved on to the NFL. Georgia also lost J.J. Holloman to disciplinary suspension.
Which is not to say the Bulldogs aren’t getting it done on offense. Before Saturday, when Georgia turned the ball over four times to none for South Carolina, long, time-consuming scoring drives were wearing down opponents.
As it is, the Bulldogs remain ranked among the country’s top 25 teams in points (38.5 per game), rushing (237.2 yards per game), pass efficiency (157.6) and third-down conversions (46.3 percent).
But the Bulldogs still believe they need to be more explosive.
“I think we need to take more shots downfield and try to get the ball to our playmakers in space,” said running back D’Andre Swift, one of those playmakers. “Whatever the coaches think that might be, I think we need to a do a better job of that.”
Said Smart: “We’ve got to do a better job of winning the one-on-ones when the (pass protection is) there. You give Jake time, he’s very accurate.”
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