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Film Study: Todd Gurley Edition

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As He's Taking on Auburn Single-Handed

Scott Cunningham

OK, enough grandstanding and on to the business at hand: The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry and Todd Gurley.  September 2014 seems like a long time ago.  Scotland was voting on its independence, Eric Holder resigned as attorney general, and Todd Gurley was a lock for the Heisman Trophy.  Then news broke that Gurley was being suspended for autographing memorabilia for money.  And agree or disagree with the rule, the NCAA decided he should be suspended until the Auburn game where ratings would be highest indefinitely.  Now, the suspension is over and it makes sense to dedicate this preview to the force of nature that is Todd Gurley.

Todd is a big, strong fast back.  He stands 6'1", 225 and runs a 4.5 40 yard dash.  Really, it's his vision that sets him apart.  Here's a fantastic run against Clemson:

Gurley Cutback

This starts off as a sweep to the right.Georgia pulls its playside tackle to seal (normally, it also pulls its backside guard to seal and uses the playside tackle to kick out but changed the blocking call at the line this time) uses a second tight end/wingback to kick out the corner and leads into the alley with the fullback.  Gurley is supposed to follow that path which is outlined in blue.  Instead, he notices that Clemson's linebackers have overpursued the sweep action and cuts hard left into a wide open field:

Clemson's #7 overpursues but really, the backside defensive end has some responsibility for what happened there as well.  What would have happened if Clemson's linebackers hadn't overpursued?  Something like this:

Take a breath and rewatch that play.  Pure sweeps out of the I have become rare and make me very happy.

His vision also makes him very effective in zone blocking schemes where his only job is to find the hole.  To be fair, I might could have found this hole:

Georgia also likes to run Gurley on delayed handoffs or lead draws.  Here is one they ran against us last year:

Gurley Draw

Georgia is trying to take advantage of Auburn's natural aggressiveness on the defensive line.  The tackles step back to show pass block.  The guards block the DTs in front of them and the center goes for the weakside linebacker.  Gurley and his fullback take a delay step then blast through the hole, fullback trying to take out the mike linebacker.  Gurley makes a nice cut and picks up 9 yards.  Here's the film:

Georgia also likes to get him the ball on short passes out of the backfield:

Gurley Out

Georgia recognizes that Auburn is in a zone.  The two playside receivers run the defensive backs out of the curl/flat area and Georgia slips Todd Gurley right into that area for an easy catch and a nice gain.

Georgia's offense is much the same offense Mark Richt has run since he arrived at Georgia.  He will run some zone read concepts and throw bubble screens and counters off the bubble but if you traveled back in time with this film and brought it to former offensive coordinator Jon Lovett he'd recognize it as Richt's immediately.  This offense was wide open and cutting edge in 2001 when Richt arrived at Georgia but in light of the last decade of offensive evolution it looks very traditional.  It's still, however, very effective.  Richt relies on a precision timing and play action passing game.  If Auburn can't do better against quick slants than they've done the previous three weeks, we'll see a steady diet of them all night long. Here's a slant Georgia ran last year against Auburn:

Slant

It doesn't make you any less of a human being if this play gives you nightmares.  Texas A&M and South Carolina gouged Auburn with a similar concept over the last couple of weeks.  The play is designed to put the pass defense in conflict.  If this is a bubble screen, the receiver on the slant is going to try to block you.  Do you ignore him and fight your way to the receiver threatening screen?  If you keep too much distance, the quarterback will hit the receiver as soon as he turns in like this:

At heart, this 2014 Georgia team wants to run.  They average 255 yards per game on the ground, which is good for fifteenth in the country (and third in the state of Georgia).  They average 196 yards through the air which is 99th in the country.  Like Auburn, when they choose to pass, they do so efficiently, averaging 7.5 yards per attempt.  Hutson Mason has 15 TDs against 3 picks.

Overall, Georgia presents a much friendlier matchup for Auburn than we've had the previous three weeks.  While Auburn struggles against the pass (100th in the country, 256 ypg), our rushing defense has shown flashes of excellence and is ranked 29th in the country giving up 129 yards per game.  With the exception of the first half against Arkansas and most of the Mississippi State game, Auburn has done a reasonable job containing the run.  Last year, Auburn held Gurley to 80 yards.  Our rush defense was helped by our offense building a huge lead and forcing Georgia to throw but when you watch the film, Jake Holland, Kris Frost, and the defensive front really held their own against Georgia.

Look for a well-rested Todd Gurley and Georgia to make a few more plays on the ground.  Auburn's ground game will look unstoppable and a late Georgia comback attempt will

Fall flat.

Auburn 42 Georgia 28.