OFFENSIVE OUTPUT AND REASONABLE YARDAGE EXPECTATIONS
Much of Georgia's hopes for a dream season rest on the arm of Matthew Stafford and the legs of Knowshon Moreno and his capable back-ups. The term "Heisman Hopeful" has been applied to each UGA star. This has me wondering what are reasonable expectations for the Dawgs in terms of passing and rushing output. So I looked at the numbers from 2004, 2005 and 2007. I have excluded 2006 because we had an unsettled quarterback situation and the loss of our best RB half way into the season. I believe that what to expect this year can be reasonably projected from the results of 2004 (senior starter at QB, stable of capable RBs), 2005 (senior starter at QB, stable of of capable RBs) and 2007 (improving second year starter at QB, stable of capable RBs.) These projections obviously assume that Stafford and Moreno escape injury all year.
2004: David Greene, DJ Shockley, et al combined for 201 completions on 363 attempts for 55.4%, 2972 yards (8.2 per attempt), 24 TDs. There were 30.3 attempts per game for 247.7 yards per game.
2005: Shockley, Tereshinski, et al combined for 201 completions on 363 attempts for 55.4%, 2977 yards (8.2 per attempt), 26 TDs. There were 27.9 attempts per game for 229 yards per game.
2007: Stafford, Cox, et al combined for 199 completions on 365 attempts for 54.5%, 2579 yards (7.1 per attempt), 20 TDs. There were 28.1 attempts per game for 198 yards per game.
Notice how similar the numbers are in 2004 and 2005. The main difference between 2004 and 2005 was that we played only 12 games in 2004 and 13 games in 2005. That accounts for the lower attempts and yards per game in 2005. Also note that Shockley missed the Florida game or the statistics would have certainly been a little better. Now, compare Stafford's sophomore season to the previous two. The attempts per game at 28.1 were nearly identical to 2005 and only 2 passes fewer than 2004. The total yardage was down by 400 yards and the yards per game was down by roughly 50 and 30 yards compared t0 2004 and 2005. TDs were also down by 4 and 6 scores. What can we extrapolate from these figures?
I think we can expect attempts to be no more than 30 per game. I also expect to see Stafford's completion percentage to improve to no less than 60%. If that happens, his total yards and yards per attempt will go up. I think he will average around 230 yards per game based on an uptick in completion percentage and a better yards per completion based on more deep threats at receiver and a more experienced offensive line that should give Coach Bobo enough confidence to call for more deep balls. Based on this, he should have about 2760 yards in the 12 game regular season and could add another 230 to 460 yards depending on whether the Dawgs make the SECCG. If so, he would have about 3220 yards. His TDs will only go up to about 25 at most because of our preference to run the ball inside the red zone.
I suspect that Stafford's best line will look something like this:
235 completions on 392 attempts for a 60% completion percentage. 3220 yards for 230 yards per game. 8.2 yards per completion and 25 TDs.
2005: Sophomores Thomas Brown, Danny Ware, Kregg Lumpkin et al combined for 2108 yards on 455 attempts for a 4.63 average. There were 35 attempts per game for a 162 yards per game average and a total of 16 TDs. 2007: Senior Thomas Brown and freshman Knowshon Moreno et al combined for 2304 yards on 509 attempts for a 4.53 average. There were 39 attempts per game for a 177 yards per game average and a total of 32 TDs. Moreno accounted for 1334 yards on 248 attempts for a 5.38 average and 14 TDs. He averaged 19 carries and 103 yards per game.
Moreno was responsible for roughly half of the carries in 2007 when he shared duty with Thomas Brown. I think we should expect Moreno to get more carries this year, but just how many more will depend upon the progress and productivity of the talented fleet of backs in reserve (Caleb King, Richard Samuel, Kalvin Daniels, Dontavius Jackson.) I think about 60% of the carries per game is the most he will average. That would put him at 23 carries per game.
I expect his yards per carry will edge slightly upward based on three things: (1) Knowshon gained valuable experience in the league last season while splitting the carries and has had the entire off-season to prepare himself to be the work horse, (2) Coach Bobo now has a year of experience calling the plays and has had 8 months to figure out the most productive package for Moreno, and (3) improved production in the passing game leading to more opportunities for play-action. The one thing that mitigates against increased yards per carry in the first several games will be the absence of Brannan Southerland. But, I am confident that the coaching staff has made adequate adjustments to ensure that Moreno will be able to find running room. Accordingly, I expect Knowshon to average at least 5.6 yards per carry. This would translate to an average of 129 yards per game and between 1677 and 1806 yards for the season - depending on whether we play 13 or 14 games.
The one area where I think we will see the biggest jump in his production is TDs. Last year he had 14 of the 32 rushing touchdowns. Brown had 10, Southerland 5, Stafford 2 and Munzenmaier 1. This year, until Southerland returns, the fullbacks will not be getting the call at the goal line. Last year, Thomas Brown had the toughness and desire to fight his way into the endzone. We do not know yet if the current crop of tailbacks behind Moreno have a nose for the goal line like Brown did. I think this means Knowshon will get the ball much more often in the red zone this year compared to last year. I believe that 22 TDs is not an unreasonable number and would not be surprised if he had a few more.
I project that Moreno's best line will look something like this:
1806 yards on 322 attempts for a 5.6 average and 22 TDs.
Combining these projections, we should expect our run:pass ratio to be around 39:28 for the season which is 58% rushing and 42% passing.
Are these stats good enough for eventual Heisman consideration? If the Dawgs are undefeated when the award is handed out at the Downtown Athletic Club, then the answer will be yes. Otherwise, no.
So, what am I missing and what did I get wrong? I would appreciate your input.