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November 27, 2012

High on the Dogs' Hogs

Lee, Theus, Andrews, Gates, the rest of the Hogs,
and their coaches can be commended for their 
much better than expected play in 2012.
Entering the season three months ago, they were the Dogs' most inexperienced unit of players and likely the team's biggest question mark: the Hogs on offense, Georgia's  offensive line. 
Back in the spring, I posted a pessimistic piece indicating the Bulldogs' inexperienced offensive line one which returned only 31 career starts was my primary cause for concern, and for good reason.  As mentioned then, when a Georgia squad from the past or FBS team from the previous year returned little along the offense front, it almost always equated to a decline in overall record. 
Entering 2012, the Bulldogs' 31 offensive line starts were the lowest in the SEC, while only 13 of the other 123 FBS schools returned fewer.
With two games remaining on its schedule, no matter the outcomes, Georgia has already achieved a better record than a year ago, bucking the trend that an inexperienced offensive line corresponds to a drop in overall team results.  Instead, the Bulldog youngsters wound up being one of the best offensive lines in the conference (by my measurement) and an integral part of one of the best teams in the nation.

Granted, the jury may still be somewhat out on this unit.  Against Georgia's two toughest opponents South Carolina and Florida the young Hogs struggled; the Bulldogs' two remaining games will be versus rather formidable opposition.  However, few will argue that throughout the season, Georgia's offensive line performed better overall than expected. 
Following the Bulldogs' disappointing, losing 2010 campaign, I blogged about the Offensive Hog Index a calculation originally used to measure NFL offensive lines that I borrowed and tweaked for the college game.  This index takes into account three statistical rankings amongst conference members where final placement is determined by the average of the three rankings.  The three measurements used are yards per rush (sacks omitted), percent of passing plays (pass attempts + times sacked) resulting in an interception or sack, and third- and fourth-down combined conversion rate.

Entering the SEC Championship Game, Georgia averages 5.56 yards per rush (3rd-best in SEC), 8.47% of its passing plays have resulted in a sack or interception (7th lowest), and have a 45.86% success rate on third and fourth down combined (4th highest).  The Bulldogs’ 4.7 average ranking places 3rd in the conference amongst the 14 members (school ranked by average of three rankings, followed by returning career OL starts in parenthesis):

 1. Texas A&M, 1.7 (95)
 2. Alabama, 3.0 (95)
 3. GEORGIA, 4.7 (31)
 4. Tennessee, 5.3 (105)
 5. Miss. State, 6.7 (43)
 6. LSU, 7.0 (104)
 7. Ole Miss, 8.0 (57)
 8. Vanderbilt, 8.3 (60)
9T. Florida, 8.7 (79)
9T. Kentucky, 8.7 (50)
11. Arkansas, 9.3 (65)
12. South Carolina, 10.0 (61)
13. Auburn, 11.0 (35)
14. Missouri, 12.3 (68)

In 2010, I was astonished that Georgia's offensive line returned a nation's highest 155 career starts, yet by the end of the season, the unit ranked in the bottom half of the SEC in Offensive Hog Index.  Two years later, I'm even more amazed, but delighted, that evidently the opposite has transpired: the SEC's most inexperienced offensive line has turned out to be one of the conference's best.

Also in 2010, I stated that the Bulldogs' shortcoming of an experienced offensive line but its sub-par play can primarily be blamed on any coach that had anything to do with those "experienced" linemen.  Only two years later, the opposite holds true: give credit to Will Friend and anyone else who has a hand in coaching the offensive line for transforming what was a major concern in August to a team strength by regular season's end.

1 comment:

BigNCDawg said...

I knew the Bulldog mascot named Mike very well. My gramar school was Barrow which is only a block away from the Ga. pratice fiels. After school in the spring I would ride my bike to the Ga. baseball games and was often batboy for the team.
Mike would roam the stands looking for someone to feed him peanuts. Ater the game he would follow the team to the fieldhouse, where I would get plenty bonding with Mike.

I also knew Cleg. He was a neat guy. Always had a smile and a good story to tell. You could see him lead the team on the field and encourge the fans.

I will always be a DAWG