Nick Chubb is back for Jim Chaney and the rest of the SEC is on notice. Mark Schofield looks at what he brings to Georgia’s power run game.
Heading into the 2016 season, the main storyline in Athens, Georgia was the status of running back Nick Chubb’s left knee. After tearing multiple ligaments in the knee, including his PCL, in a game against Tennessee, the RB underwent season-ending surgery. Whether he would return in time for the Bulldogs’ season-opener was in doubt over the summer.
Not only did Chubb return to the starting lineup, however, but he ripped off 222 yards on 32 carries and two touchdowns, including a long 55-yard TD run to put the game away. With Georgia getting their star RB back, their running game was back to form as well. Two concepts stood out when watching the tape: One that was expected, and one that was not.
If the return of Chubb was the main storyline down in Georgia leading up to Week 1, a close second was who would be taking the snaps for the Bulldogs. Senior Greyson Lambert and true freshman Jacob Eason were locked in a tight battle for the starting spot. The veteran Lambert got the nod, but even though both QBs saw action, the passing game lagged a bit behind the running game for Georgia. Eason completed 8 of 12 passes for 131 yards and a touchdown, while Lambert completed 5 of 8 throws for 54 yards. But you wouldn’t know the passing game was sluggish what with how effective Georgia was on their lead draw play.
Here’s the first look at this design. On this play from the 1st quarter, the Bulldogs face a 1st and 10 on their own 21-yard line. Using 21 personnel they line up with Lambert (#11) under center in a pro alignment to the left with the running backs in an i-formation. Chubb (#27) is the deep back and fullback Christian Payne (#47) sets up in a three point stance in front of the tailback. North Carolina has their base 4-3 defense in the game and they show an over front:
Prior to the snap Michael Chigbu (#82), the Z receiver, comes in short motion from the left, sliding inside toward the tight end. In response, strongside linebacker Cayson Collins (#23) slides down toward the edge:
Georgia runs a delayed handoff, with Payne leading Chubb to the left side:
The Bulldogs use a power blocking scheme on the play. On the right side, tackle Greg Pyke (#73) heads to the second level to block the weakside linebacker. As Pyke vacates, right guard Lamont Galliard (#53) blocks to the outside, handling the 5-technique lined up on the outside shoulder of RT. Center Brandon Kublanow (#54) blocks to his right, taking the 1-technique nose tackle aligned on his right shoulder.
On the playside Georgia uses pure man blocking. Left guard Isaiah Wynn (#77) blocks the defensive tackle while left tackle Tyler Catalina (#73) handles the defensive end. TE Jeb Blazevich (#83) handles Collins as the SLB crashes the edge. Completing the blocking design is the lead block from Payne. The FB attacks the left A Gap and aims right for middle linebacker Andre Smith (#10).
But before all this happens, the offense needs to sell the passing play. Similar to how offenses such as LSU will sell run on a play-action play by having the offensive line fire out aggressively, here the offense sells the pass by having the linemen rise straight up at the snap in order get the defense to think that they are moving into their passing blocking sets:
As you can see, the linemen are all upright, showing a pass blocking stance. Even Lambert has taken the snap and stood upright, indicating a potential drop back. He then wheels and hands the ball to Chubb as the blocks come together:
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Even though the blocking sets up nicely, including a very impressive cut block from Payne on Smith, the defensive tackles are able to shed their blockers and hold Chubb to only a gain of four yards.
But now that we have seen the basic concept of this play, it’s time to look at two more examples where the Bulldogs had even more success with this design.
Midway through the first quarter, the Bulldogs face another 1st and 10, this time on the Tar Heels’ 44-yard line. They line up again with Lambert under center and with 21 personnel on the field. Only this time they use an unbalanced formation, putting Blazevich on the right side, and using a slot formation outside of him. Payne and Chubb comprise an i-formation behind the quarterback:
UNC has their base defense on the field, only for this play they bring cornerback Desmond Lawrence (#2) into the box, aligning in a position similar to that of an extra linebacker. The blocking sets up similarly as to the previous example, only this time, with the unbalanced formation, it’s the TE Blazevich as well as the left guard who flow to the second level. First, however, the tight end blocks down on the defensive end before working to the linebacker. Again, these blocks take shape after the offensive line sells the passing play with a vertical set following the snap:
Chubb gets the handoff heading to the left side and Payne cuts through the B Gap. Lawrence steps forward to meet the lead blocker, but the FB erases the defensive back in the hole. Wynn gets a strong block on Cole Holcomb (#36), the weakside linebacker, and this creates a nice crease for Chubb to exploit:
Chubb takes it from there, knifing into the secondary for a big gain:
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Smith and freshman defensive end Tomon Fox (#12) finally drag him down from behind, but in the process the LB grabs a hold of Chubb’s facemask. Tacking on the 15-yard penalty to the 22-yard run gives the Bulldogs a first down at the UNC 11-yard line. A few plays later, Chubb would punch in Georgia’s first touchdown of the 2016 season.
Here’s one more example of this lead delay concept, this time with Jacob Eason (#10) taking the snaps for the Bulldogs. On this second quarter play, the offense has the QB under center with 21 personnel on the field in a tight pro left alignment and i-formation in the backfield. UNC stacks the box a bit, putting Holcomb on the line of scrimmage and dropping the strong safety down as well:
The blocking comes together very much like the two previous examples. Wynn and Blazevich head to the second level, with Payne leading Chubb to the hole. Of course, this all happens after the offensive line shows a vertical pass blocking stance after the snap. Even though that happens very quickly, it is enough to show the defenders reading the line for their keys that a passing play might be coming:
Again, the blocking sets up nicely, especially with Wynn and Blazevich at the second level. However, on the right edge DE Mikey Bart (#45) reads the play and loops behind his teammates in an effort to try and stop the play. He meets Chubb about three yards downfield, just as Smith scrapes off a block and dives for the RB’s legs. If you had any concern that Chubb lacked confidence in his left knee, this collision and spin move combination should put that to rest:
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The RB spins out of the would be tackle and quickly accelerates, bursting into the Tar Heels’ secondary for a 15-yard gain.
Checking In on the Power Toss
Prior to the season, I broke down the power toss play in my scheme preview for Georgia, highlighting how the Bulldogs used it last season with Chubb, and new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney ran the design at Pittsburgh last year with a similar offensive line. Well, the play was featured in Georgia’s attack against North Carolina, and on the play of the game, the Bulldogs employed the concept.
On this 1st and 10 play from the second quarter, the Bulldogs have Eason under center and they line up using 21 personnel. Payne and Chubb align in an i-formation in the backfield, and Blazevich sets in a wing just outside the right tackle. The Tar Heels have their base 4-3 defense in the game and they show Cover 2 in the secondary, and an even front:
Georgia runs the power toss play to the right with a pin-pull design:
Starting from the outside, wide receiver Jayson Stanley (#2) cracks to the inside, blocking Holcomb, the OLB to his side. Blazevich blocks down as well, handling the defensive end. This allows Pyke to pull to the edge. Dyshon Sims (#55), in the game at right guard, blocks down on the nose tackle, enabling Kublanow the center to pull outside as well. Joining the convoy is Payne, as the fullback leads Chubb to the outside:
Some traffic gets in front of the center, as Kublanow struggles to join the fray. But Payne gets another cut block on the MLB, and with the rest of the blocking setting up nicely, Chubb cuts upfield for a 10-yard gain:
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Finally, the play that put the contest out of reach. With just under four minutes remaining, the Bulldogs have the football and are clinging to a two-point lead. With the football on their own 45-yard line, they line up using 23 personnel and with Lambert under center. The start the play in an inverted slot formation to the right, with Blazevich outside of freshman TE Isaac Nauta (#18), who aligns in a two point stance. But just prior to the snap, Lambert sends Blazevich in motion toward the edge:
Here comes the power toss again:
Both tight ends block down at the start of the play, with Blazevich handling the defensive end while Nauta blocks the outside linebacker. This enables Pyke to pull to the edge. As Chubb takes the toss, Pyke and Payne lead him to the outside. The fullback angles inside the handle the linebackers flowing to the football, while the right tackle turns his sights on the cornerback Lawrence:
Chubb handles the rest:
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The 55-yard touchdown run iced the game for the Bulldogs. For their supporters who were wondering how his knee would fare early in the season, Chubb aced their test. Georgia gets their home opener next week against Nicholls State from the FCS, before they begin their SEC schedule with trips to Missouri and Mississippi before hosting Tennessee. With that tough slate coming up, you can be sure to see a whole lot of these two running designs as Chubb and the Bulldogs look to truly round into form.
Follow @MarkSchofield on Twitter. Buy his book, 17 Drives. Check out his other work here, such as how Alabama passes to attack the flat, or Tennessee’s use of the double post concept, or how LSU runs play action.
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All film courtesy of DraftBreakdown.