It was a more common concept in Georgia coach Kirby Smart’s time as a player. But more than two decades later, the old-school split-back formation that Texas A&M utilizes is more of a rarity to college football.
It’s almost a Jimbo Fisher special at this point, though. The Aggies head coach has used it now for years, dating to his days at Florida State.
“It’s unique to football now,” Smart said. “Jimbo’s done it. He did it with Dalvin Cook. He did an unbelievable job.”
The Bulldogs and Aggies are scheduled to meet at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
The split-back formation becomes even more useful when your second-leading rusher plays quarterback as well. The legs of Kellen Mond paired with a split backfield make for a lethal group of ballcarriers. It wasn’t a direct comparison intended by Smart, but the capabilities he sees in that formation is similar to that of the triple-option offense.
“It can create a lot of problems for you,” Smart said. “The quarterback basically creates almost a wishbone when you got two backs and quarterback and a tight end that’s blocking.”
Especially on the flanks, this three-headed run attack becomes a serious issue. It’s harder to choreograph where the run is going, making it crucial for the outside linebackers to maintain the edge.
“It’s just being ready for whatever they could throw at you,” Walter Grant said. “(Mond) brings more to the table that you got to be aware of.”
Thankfully for the Bulldogs, their run defense is stout. In the entirety of the NCAA, Georgia’s defense ranks third in rushing yards conceded, at 755 yards this season (75.5 per game). More impressive, the Bulldogs have only given up a singular rushing touchdown, which came late in its matchup with Auburn.
It also helps that the team has had experience dealing with split backfields over the years, mostly in house. For several years, it was Nick Chubb and Sony Michel baring that duty. In 2018, it was D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield. So it may be a new concept to some of these freshmen, but the older players have dealt with this kind of formation before.
“The good news is that we have been two-back around here in the past,” Smart said. “our players so our kids still have a little bit of exposure to it.”
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