Optimist vs. Pessimist: Georgia State’s running game

Georgia State running back Kyler Neal. (Courtesy of Georgia State)

Georgia State running back Kyler Neal. (Courtesy of Georgia State)

And now for something completely different.

Camp is over.

Georgia State will start preparing on Monday for its season opening game against Charlotte on Sept. 4 at the Georgia Dome.

So, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the three biggest question marks going into the year – run game, run defense, passing game – and see if they will be better than they were last year.

I call it: Optimist vs. Pessimist, or OvP for short.

Let’s start with Georgia State’s running game, or its lack of a running game.

The facts:

Georgia State averaged 96.3 rushing yards per game, 120th out of 125 FBS teams.

Just one player eclipsed 100 yards in a game and he’s no longer on the team (Krysten Hammon).

The team had 13 rushing touchdowns.

Following Hammon leaving after the second game, the next two running backs suffered season-ending injuries in the same game.

Three starters return on the offensive line.

The Optimist says…

“Our guys are one year older in the system and they understand the system. Our offensive line is coming together. We still have time, another 2 ½ weeks or 2 weeks to go, but they’ve gotten better as camp goes along. It’s been really progressive. We’ve been trying to get those guys going in the right direction and finishing. What they need is confidence.” – Offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski.

As noted, the line returns three starters: Michael Ivory, Alex Stoehr and Taylor Evans. Others, Davis Moore, Akil Hawkins, started a few games. A fourth, Sebastian Willer, has been in the system for two years now. The fifth starter may be UAB transfer Kelepi Folau. That’s a lot of experience, another year to get stronger and another year to develop chemistry.

The Pessimist says …

It’s well and good for the line to return three starters, but if those starters were ineffective last year why would they suddenly be effective this year? Plus, just because they have improved doesn’t mean that the players on defense they faced last year and may face this year haven’t also improved. Seems like a wash.

The Optimist says ….

The line is deeper than it has ever been. If left tackle Micheal Ivory were to suffer a season-ending injury for the second consecutive year, it shouldn’t force a massive shuffling of the line, which disrupts the entire offense. Willer can move to left tackle and Dom Roldan can come in at right tackle. Jah-Mai Davidson can come in at tackle, as well.

The Pessimist says …

We heard that the line was deep last year, only for it to be not so deep once the games started.

The Optimist says …

Of the backs, Kyler Neal knows the system after starting in it last year before suffering his season-ending knee injury at Washington. Marcus Caffey knows the system also after moving from cornerback to running back midway through the year.

Kendrick Dorn has looked really good in the last few practices. He talked about improving his patience and he seems to be doing that with several smart runs the past few days in which he let the blockers do their job, got through the hole, waited on the second level to clear and then kept going.

Taz Bateman, another new face, has looked fantastic. I have no idea if he’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing, but the results are usually good every time he gets the ball.

The Pessimist says …

Neal, Dorn and Bateman have looked good, but they are going against the core of a defense that was shredded in 11 of 12 games last year. Just one team, Abilene Christian, didn’t crack 100 yards last year running against the group. It would seem that running backs should look good.

The Optimist says …

The defense should be improved, which means the offense shouldn’t have to play from behind so often, which means they will get chances to run the ball. Last year, consistently having to rally forced half of the playbook to be ripped up in the third quarter.

The Pessimist says …

Well, the pessimist has nothing to say to this, other than we will see. This, more than anything else, was the problem last year.

The Optimist says …

The passing game should be very good with the return of quarterback Nick Arbuckle, tight ends Joel Ruiz and Keith Rucker, wide receivers Robert Davis, Donovan Harden, Avery Sweeting, Glenn Smith, Todd Boyd and others.  Defenses shouldn’t be able to stack the box. Fewer bodies near the line of scrimmage should mean more room to run.

The Pessimist says …

Georgia State set several school records for passing last year and that didn’t help the running game.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.