Playing Chubb and Michel together not as cut and dried as you'd think
It’s a question fans have asked and one Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has heard for years: When you’ve got two talented running backs like Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, why don’t you play them more on the field at the same time?
“In my years at Alabama, it was always one of my favorites,” Smart said. “There were always two good backs, whether it was Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon, Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, Trent and Eddie (Lacey), there were always those combinations. And certainly that’s a strength of our team because I think Brian (Herrien), (Elijah) Holyfield and the young man (D’Andre) Swift coming in … we’ve got some talented backs.”
But back to the original question.
When you’ve got two players the caliber of Chubb and Sony, shouldn’t offensive coordinator Jim Chaney be finding ways to get them in the backfield together as much as he can?
Many fans may think so but Smart disagrees.
“I do think you have to be careful because as defensive coordinator, I prefer to see those two guys together because one of them doesn’t have the ball,” Smart said. “When one of them doesn’t have the ball, I always say what’s the other one doing – is he a professional blocker? Does he know how to block? Does he know how to go out and block in space, block people and cut people?”
The answer to that is sort of.
“That’s the not the best thing they do. If they don’t have the ball, that’s really all they’re doing. So, we want some packages for them together, and they do block well, they’re willing to, but that’s not what they do best,” Smart said. “They’re best with the ball in their hands and we’re finding ways to get them the ball. We’ll have some packages for them together, and we’ll see if we can create some things from that.”
However, keeping opposing defenses honest guarantees Chaney won’t stick with just one plan. The days of constantly lining in up in an I-back set with a fullback are for the most part history.
“You’ve got to change it up. You can’t sit there in the 'I' these days. There’s too many teams that attack you,” Smart said. “You’ve got to have one-back sets, but if you’re in a one-back set, who are those other guys on the field? Are they three receivers and one tight end, two receivers and two tight ends? You’ve got to have packages to mix it up and you’ve got to find guys who can block and play in space.”
It’s all about having a run-pass option (RPO).
“Teams are scoring more these days because they’re able to do RPOs, and they’re usually doing that out of one-back. They’re not doing that out of a traditional I-set and a traditional fullback,” Smart said. “It would be great if we go out and overpower people, but I think you’re going to struggle with that. Most defenses in the SEC are more physical and stout than the offenses. I think you see that with LSU. LSU is able to overpower a lot of teams but when they play a team that’s comparable, they struggle to manufacture out of the 'I.'”