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CFF Discussion - Why UGA is no good for CFF, and how its newest OC might change that
Mike Bobo brings an intriguing track record to the fold, could the UGA CFF curse be broken this season?
Big shark in the water, I tatted my gills.
- SSG Splurge, hip-hop artist
There should be no dispute at this point who the big shark in the waters of College Football is. What’s that you say? Everyone’s favourite senior citizen over in Tuscaloosa has something to say about it?
Who cares. This rocket ship commenced liftoff a long time ago. Specifically, it was the day that HC Kirby Smart was hired at the University of Georgia. Bama fans can celebrate moral victories all they want with recruiting wins on Caleb Downs and Justice Haynes. Meanwhile, back in Titletown (otherwise known as Athens, GA), UGA players are making The Three Year Letterman proud as they struggle to turn door handles open with back-to-back championship rings on their fingers.
While losing out on Downs and Haynes was a blow, there is an inconvenient truth to be told here. If you keep your ear to the ground of GA high school football, you know that Gwinnett County (where both Downs and Haynes are from), and more generally, east Atlanta, is like the twilight zone of College Football recruiting. It can’t really be considered Georgia territory, as (for reasons unbeknownst to anyone) seemingly none of these kids have any interest in playing at UGA, which is unfortunate because on both a cumulative and talent per capita measure, this is probably the richest area in GA. My theory on why this is the case is that this is a suburb of largely transient folks, but that’s neither here nor there.
That trend appears likely to continue in 2024. East Atlanta Parkview’s nationally ranked (top ten) prospect WR/S Mike Matthews appears on a mission to get out of the state, with Tennessee and Clemson as likely destinations. Five-star linebacker Sammy Brown of Jefferson appears 50/50 split between UGA and Clemson — despite the fact that his former teammate Malaki Starks started as a true freshman for the Dawgs last season. It is highly likely that one of the two of Buford’s five-star defenders S KJ Bolden and DL Eddrick Houston will end up heading out of state as well, with Ohio State and Alabama lurking.
And yet, none of that even matters. UGA will likely finish this cycle with the #1 rated recruiting class. How is that possible you might ask? Well, because Florida exists. I mean, there are other reasons, but mostly it’s because Florida exists. As the old saying goes, GA kids want to play at Alabama, FL kids want to play at UGA, and no-one wants to play in Florida, that’s why Miami sucks… err… wait, maybe that was just me in a drunken stupor after Haynes’ commitment to the Tide last summer. Moving on…
UGA is all about rotation at every position under Smart — it’s a key ingredient to the success on the field, but limits upside in CFF
I’m going to level with you right off the bat — as long as Kirby is here I am always going to be treading with caution when it comes to UGA’s players for CFF. Simply put, they rotate every position so much that no individual (unless your name is Brock Bowers) sees enough volume to give the CFF manager a return that is better than available options elsewhere.
Some incorrectly think that there is no value in UGA’s WRs because the team doesn’t pass often enough. That is not true, UGA’s offences with Todd Monken passed the ball as much as they ran the ball, they actually deployed a truly balanced offence. The reason there is no value in UGA’s WRs is the same reason why there hasn't been value in its RBs lately, the rotation game is strong.
Perhaps that’s what ole’ Sabester told UGA legacy RB Justice Haynes to secure his commitment “Hey Justice, they rotate their backs over there and none of them go over 1000 yards, I know this because I’ve been playing CFF for the past few seasons and their players always suck. Come over to Tuscaloosa, even if our championship days are over, we still foster an environment that facilitates volume pigs”.
Special shoutout to OSU
Last season we were all treated as CFB fans to an epic matchup between two CFB heavy weights — Ohio State and UGA. The matchup lived up to the billing by all accounts. If you are a fan of either and follow recruiting, you know there was an extra element of juice going into the matchup as well…
Simply put, UGA took OSU to the woodshed on the trail in the 2023 class. When looking at the Dawgs' commitments, a (oddly) significant portion were heavily recruited by OSU, with many, at some point, forecasted to land in Columbus. These names include five-star DE Damon Wilson (FL), five-star CB A.J. Harris (AL), five-star S Joenel Aguero (MA), four-star DE Gabriel Harris (GA), four-star LB Troy Bowles (FL, son of the coach), and four-star CB Daniel Harris (FL). That's a lot of names to win out on where both UGA and OSU were in it to the end. I can only imagine the insurmountable pain OSU fans must be feeling on a daily basis right now. Thankfully, as a Dawgs fan, I have two honorary championship rings and my life is fantastic.
In the event that the trend continues this cycle, I predict a full-on meltdown amongst the CFF community if (when) 2024 prospects QB Dylan Raiola (former OSU commit) and WR Jeremiah Smith (current OSU commit) sign with the Dawgs. While selfishly as a Dawgs fan, I would love to see Smith, in particular, join the progrum; from a CFF standpoint, it would be a tremendous disappointment. UGA — as alluded to earlier — would likely not keep him on the field enough to unlock his true CFF potential the way OSU would.
But, there is hope that change could soon be on the horizon in Athens…
New OC Mike Bobo’s track record has my attention
Mike Bobo returns as OC at UGA for the 2023 season. Bobo previously OC’d the Dawgs from 2007 to 2014 (eight seasons). Of those eight seasons, four featured a 1000-yard rusher. His RB1 averaged 1113.75 yards over that span. That’s pretty impressive as far as a track record. Indeed, Bobo’s tenure included many of the formative years that led to UGA’s moniker of ‘RBU’. The receiving stats are less flattering; in the eight seasons, there were zero 1000-yard receivers. His WR1 averaged 776 yards over that span.
His record during his tenure as head coach at Colorado State (2015-2019) is the complete opposite. Of the five seasons, only one produced a 1000-yard rusher (Dalyn Dawkins with 1399 yards in 2017) and every single season featured a 1000-yard receiver.
Two of those receivers caught double digit TD passes: Michael Gallup (6’1, 200) in 2016 (14) and Preston Williams (6’4, 211) in 2018 (14). Both players occupied a boundary receiver role in Bobo’s offence.
It appears that Bobo typically deploys a balanced approach. During his time as head coach at Colorado State from 2015-2019, Bobo's offences averaged 436.2 total yards per game, with 230.6 yards coming through the air and 205.6 yards on the ground. This is a fairly even split between the run and the pass, with the rushing attack accounting for just over 47% of the team's total offence on average.
Similarly, during Bobo's tenure as offensive coordinator at Georgia from 2007-2014, the Bulldogs averaged 420.9 total yards per game, with 224.4 yards passing and 196.5 yards rushing. Again, this is a relatively even split between the two phases of the game, with the running game accounting for just over 46% of the team's total offence on average.
Who could benefit the most from Bobo’s system in 2023?
Given that his track record as an OC at UGA skewed more to run production (for individual players, that is), I am going to assume that that will be the case in 2023. However, Bobo’s track record includes multiple 1000-yard rushers and receivers, so we will consider the relevant RB, and TE personnel on the UGA roster. I didn’t forget to put WRs in that last line, by the way, I just don’t think the room is relevant enough to warrant doing a deep dive on (and also, as Substack’s editing software tells me, I’m running out of space to fit in the email preview). There are some phenomenal receivers in Athens right now, but between the question mark at QB, and Bobo’s track record as OC at UGA, I think our time is better served focusing elsewhere (TEs).1
RB Kendall Milton - 6’1, 220
At 6'1 and 220 pounds, Milton has a thick and sturdy frame that allows him to break tackles and push the pile, while also possessing enough speed and quickness to elude defenders in the open field. He was a consensus four-star recruit coming out of high school in Clovis, California, where he was widely regarded as one of the top running backs in the country.
Up to this point, his career has largely been overshadowed with injuries. It was announced late in March that he had suffered yet another injury (hamstring) and would miss spring. Given his injury history dating back to high school, it seems likely he’ll be missing at least some time again in 2023.
His 2022 season is by far the best of his career so far, in which he played in 13 games, running for nearly 600 yards and 8 TDs (9.4 FPG). Milton is the incumbent and presumed RB1 for 2023. As he will be missing time in spring due to injury, I would not expect a massive workload for Milton upon his return, especially earlier in the season. He has yet to show that he can be relied on in a heavy capacity without accruing multiple injuries in the process, which leaves me with trepidation about his CFF outlook, no matter who the OC is.
RB Daijun Edwards - 5’10, 205
At 5'10 and 205 pounds, Edwards has a compact build that allows him to slip through small creases in the defence and make defenders miss in the open field.
As a freshman in 2020, Edwards appeared in all 10 games for the Bulldogs and rushed for 408 yards and four touchdowns on 77 carries, while also catching four passes for 34 yards. He had a breakout performance against Missouri, where he rushed for 103 yards and two touchdowns on just 14 carries.
He put up similar numbers to Milton in 2022: rushing for 771 yards and 7 TDs (9.4 FPG).
Edwards probably could have been a stud CFF asset at a program like Minnesota, or Iowa State, for example. At UGA it doesn’t look likely that he will ever be a 20+ carry/game guy. He may see an increased role in the pass game in 2023 though, as UGA needs someone to fill in the James Cook and Kenny McIntosh role, and Edwards has proven that he has strong hands in the past. Perhaps more importantly, the other runners on the roster do not offer the same upside as receivers that he does. UGA has a problem in its backfield that people are not really talking about this offseason: their RBs are very homogenous — that is, they all do the same things well but struggle in the same areas too.
Branson Robinson - 5’10, 220
Robinson is the one everyone is excited about, isn’t he? The 5’10, 220 pound Mississippi native finished his freshman season with 86 attempts for 330 yards (4.9 ypc) and 3 TDs. He was rarely used in the pass game as he caught only one pass for two yards.
UGA fans and CFF managers alike are excited about his future; his running style has an uncanny resemblance to former Bulldog legend RB Nick Chubb. As it happens, the current OC Mike Bobo, gets the opportunity to coach both. In 2014, under Bobo’s regime, Chubb ran for 1547 yards and 14 TDs on only 219 attempts — that is a ridiculous 7 ypc over the course of the 13 games he played. I don’t think that level of efficiency is fair to bank on for any RB let alone a largely unproven rising sophomore in Robinson. Still, when combining Chubb’s receptions it turns out he averaged over 18 touches a game with the Dawgs that season. That’s not ideal (we want 20+) but it is better than anything we’ve seen previously under Todd Monken.
If some sequence of events were to unfold where Milton is out, and the UGA QBs struggle, it appears there could be a path for Robinson to find CFF relevancy. While the chances seem low, this scenario is not that unlikely when considering all the factors involved (Milton’s injury history, unproven UGA QBs).
I think the relevant question is: was the RBBC approach of recent years largely a product of Monken or Kirby Smart? Obviously if it’s the latter then that’s the death nail in whatever fleeting hope we have in UGA’s RBs for CFF. Unfortunately, we won’t really have clarity on the matter until the season actually kicks off — so CFF managers will have to decide if they want to take the risk or not in drafts over the summer. As both Milton and Edwards are out, spring reports can’t really offer any clarity on the matter either.
For what it’s worth, I am a UGA fan (shocker, I know) who watches a lot of their games and I thought Robinson looked the best of the RBs (excluding Kenny McIntosh, who departs for the NFL) last season. It’s hard to evaluate Milton as he is often dealing with lingering injuries even when he is playing, but there have been some incredible flashes in his career.
All of this leads me to wonder if Bobo will have a chance to resurrect his 2014 version of Chubb this fall in the form of Branson Robinson, and what a sight for CFF managers that would be. Is that likely? No. Will I be drafting Robinson? Probably not.
However, it is my opinion that Robinson is probably the RB to own in this room. Yes, Milton will be listed as RB1 to open the season, and Edwards probably RB2, but the cream eventually rises to the top. Especially if that cream isn’t injured every other game.
Joining the fold is freshman (6’1, 240) RB Roderick Robinson by way of San Diego. Robinson was initially supposed to be Zach Charbonnet’s replacement at UCLA before flipping to the Dawgs later in the cycle. He is a heavier back, and also a freshman. With emphasis on the latter part, I don’t think it’s fair to expect that he will have a significant role on this team in 2023, unless some crazy shit happens.
(5’11, 220) RB Andrew Paul returns from an ACL injury as well. I rarely expect big things from players coming off major injuries. Despite the fact that he garnered significant buzz last offseason prior to injury, I don’t think Paul is worth any kind of draft capital in CFF for 2023.
TE Lawson Luckie 6’3, 225
Everyone already knows about Brock Bowers so I don’t think there’s a need to cover him. I would, however, like to introduce you to the potential next Brock Bowers — TE Lawson Luckie. The UGA legacy TE has a similar build to Bowers, and has been making headlines in spring ball. Here’s an excerpt from a recent beat-writer report:
Brock Bowers continues to be the headliner of the group and is poised to have another big season, but the Bulldogs have several other names that have emerged at that spot. Oscar Delp is shaping up to be the second option, but newcomer Lawson Luckie has shined this spring and as he continues to be a threat in the passing game. He has shown the ability to outrun defenders and be dominant at the catch point. Sources indicated to Dawgs Daily that Luckie had multiple touchdowns in Saturday's scrimmage. Including a long breakaway run after the catch.
I know that the excerpt mentions that Delp is the second option, and it makes sense as he’s the elder statesman of the two, but in reports from services I subscribe too (paywalled) there has been mention that Luckie’s a more advanced blocker than Delp already, and that could allow him to see the field a lot early on. He is also making headlines on twitter; here is UGA-focused media personality Brooks Austin writing about Luckie’s spring camp so far.
I’ve heard on multiple occasions from UGA football coverage that Luckie has an insane work ethic (just like Bowers) and that his recruiting ranking does not accurately reflect the type of athlete he is. However, even in the optimistic case for Luckie he is still TE2 in 2023. I just mention his name as someone to keep on your radar for 2024, and beyond. This is a player that Alabama came after for in full force, and UGA fought tooth and nail to keep him.
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Note on WRs: Slot WR Dominic Lovett was highly productive last season for Missouri and early reports from spring camp suggest he will be a starter for UGA. However, looking at Bobo’s track record with 1000-yard WRs, most of them were boundary players. RaRa Thomas is a name to know on the outside, as is Arian Smith (if he can stay healthy).