ATHENS -- It’s possible this is only about trying to find a place and a role for Quayvon Hicks, a player of tantalizing strength and ability.
It’s also possible this is a clue to the latest wrinkle Mike Bobo is putting into Georgia’s offense.
Bobo announced before spring practice, almost off-handedly, that Hicks would be moving from fullback to a newly created H-back role. Hicks played at fullback his first two seasons at Georgia, starting six games.
But inconsistent blocking relegated Hicks to the second team most of last year. Still, Hicks is one of the team’s most chiseled athletes (6-foot-2, 257 pounds), so the Bulldogs are working to find a role for him, including H-back, tight end and his old fullback spot.
“He’s using me in more places now,” Hicks said of Bobo. “He’s having fun with it, I’m having fun with it.”
The H-back spot was popularized by Joe Gibbs in the early 1980s, as the Washington Redskins’ head coach sought a way to defend the 3-4 defense. In order to stop a blitzing outside linebacker -- such as Lawrence Taylor -- an H-back could be closer to the line than a fullback. But it was also an effort to keep the defense on its toes as the H-back would frequently go in motion.
Gibbs put it this way in a 2005 interview, “An H-Back has to have good hands and be super smart. ... They give you a lot of opportunities for changes in formations. If you notice, real good football teams do it because it’s a different complication for the defense.”
Georgia has had a real good offense the past couple of years. But Bobo has made a habit recently of introducing new wrinkles each season.
Three years ago, it was the no-huddle. Two years ago, he introduced the spread, and since then the three-receiver set has become Georgia’s main set. And last year, Bobo added the pistol formation, which was just used in spots.
Last week, Bobo indicated that he hasn’t decided just how much he’ll incorporate the H-back.
“We’re gonna have to see really how it unfolds as a team, offensively, what our best personnel groups and what our identity becomes, for us to move the ball,” Bobo said. “And that changes year to year.”
Hicks said he’s getting about an equal amount of reps at his three spots: H-back, fullback and tight end. He looks pretty short compared to the other tight ends, but says he’s be confident in playing that spot.
“Yes sir. I’m a true believer in the coaches, they put you in a position to help you make those plays,” Hicks said. “I don’t believe that Coach Lilly or Coach Bobo wouldn’t have put me in the position I am now if they didn’t think I was capable of doing that. So I’m confident; they’re confident, I’ve just gotta keep working.”
It hasn’t ended up just being Hicks at H-back. Freshman tight end Jeb Blazevich also has been working there. So has, for at least one drill, Jonathon Rumph, a 6-5 receiver.
BYU incorporated the H-back last year, working in players who were at fullback or tight end but also taller receivers -- as Georgia might be considering with Rumph.
Alabama occasionally uses an H-back, mainly as a blocker. When the New England Patriots had tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, they occasionally put both on the field and used Hernandez as the H-back. Ohio State and Auburn have an H-back, but that position is a hybrid tight end-receiver.
When Hicks talks about his role, he sounds a bit like Bobo, analyzing the direction of the game and its offenses.
“Everybody is straying away from that power-I, I-formation scheme,” Hicks said. “When it works in the SEC, you’ve gotta have the foundation of running the ball, especially in our backfield. But I would say just the traditional football of running it, pounding it, (the trend) is straying away from that.
“So it would speed up our game (to use Hicks at H-back). And to basically play how they play in the NFL, out West, that football where you may be in that I-formation, maybe you’ll be in that spread offense. But you’re constantly going, and you’re going, you’ve gotta wear down the defense. So I think what Bobo is doing is he’s opening up a lot of doors, not only for me but for our players.”