TIFTON - Mike Bobo is digging the idea of calling for the long ball again in 2014.
Georgia’s offense managed to put up good numbers last year, but injuries to its two most explosive receivers put a limit on the passing game. Now with Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley set to return, the man calling the plays can’t wait.
“We’ve got a chance to be a lot better when we’ve got guys who’ve got speed on the outside,” said Bobo, Georgia’s offensive coordinator, before a UGA fan event this week. “Just for our overall offense, those guys that can turn an ordinary pass play, a slant or a hitch, and go to the house. The explosive plays."
As Georgia's skill position players kept going down with injuries, Georgia increasingly relied on more methodical drives.
“It’s hard to go eight, 10-play drives all the time," Bobo said. "You like those plays where you throw it out there and they take one to the house, or they take a swing pass and go for 20-to-30 yards. And we had to work for it a bit more last year. We still had our fair share of big plays, but not as many as we had the year before.”
Last year, Georgia had just three completions of 50 yards or more, and one was a catch-and-run by tailback Todd Gurley. (The 75-yard touchdown against Florida.) Another was the 85-yarder to Scott-Wesley, whose services were no longer available after he tore his ACL at Tennessee in the fifth game.
Compare that to 2012, when Georgia had nine pass plays of 50-plus yards, all but one of them by wide receivers.
Last season the Bulldogs also saw a dip in pass plays of 40-plus yards (just 11, down from 19 in 2012) and 30-plus yards (28, down from 32). Michael Bennett and Chris Conley, the team’s leading receivers last year, didn’t have a catch of 50 yards or more.
The low point came in the loss at Vanderbilt, when the longest catch was a 17-yarder to tailback J.J. Green.
After the Tennessee game the Bulldogs basically lacked a consistent deep threat. Freshman Reggie Davis, who had the 98-yard touchdown against North Texas, has speed, but he was a true freshman still learning the offense.
“If we can get Reggie (up to speed), and Malcolm and Justin back, that opens up not just the passing game, but the running game,” Bobo said. “We still had our fair share of big-play passes, but we didn’t have them going for touchdowns as we did the year before. And we didn’t have near as many big-play runs.
“And some people say, Well we weren’t blocking as well. No, it has to do with how they’re covering everything else, and when a guy breaks a tackle there’s nobody there because they’re double-covering receivers. That happened a lot in 2012. We were able to get them in more space because of everything we were able to do offensively.”
Of course, it still remains to be seen just how much of the old Mitchell and Scott-Wesley the Bulldogs get this year.
Scott-Wesley is facing a one-game suspension for a marijuana arrest last fall. He also didn’t participate much in spring practice.
Mitchell missed almost all of the spring after suffering another unspecified leg injury. But the medical staff has told the coaches that Mitchell should be ready to go by June – as should Scott-Wesley – and Bobo said Mitchell looked good before his injury in March.
“I don’t see any reason for him not to come back 100 percent. In the spring every time he was doing something – before he had the other (injury) he looked great. Running, cutting, and exploding out of his stance,” Bobo said. “And he’s there all the time rehabbing. He says he feels awesome. Which you don’t know till you get out there, so we’ll see.”