I know a lot of Georgia fans would rather start punting on third downs than make it look like the Bulldogs were taking cues from Georgia Tech, but here's five reasons why the Bulldogs should incorporate a wishbone package in 2010.
1. It finally gives Logan Gray an identity.
Gray wasn't a good enough quarterback to beat out Matthew Stafford or Joe Cox, but Mark Richt and Mike Bobo have been trying different ways to use his athleticism nonetheless. He's been used as a punt returner (though largely just to fair catch or let it go) and a move to receiver was rumored for him for 2010.
Gray has played well enough to insert himself in the conversation for the starting job next fall, but most folks still think it really comes down to Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger. If that's the case, Gray needs a defined role if he is to see the field. Making him the designated wishbone quarterback is one way to accomplish that.
2. It gets Washaun Ealey and Caleb King on the field together.
No one in the SEC outside Tuscaloosa boasts a better tandem of running backs than Georgia does. Why not use a strategy that gets both on the field at once? You could certainly do a lot worse than a package of plays where there are three options and these guys are two of them.
The entire point of Gus Malzahn and Houston Nutt introducing the country to the Wildcat in 2006 was to get Darren McFadden and Felix Jones on the field at once. It worked fantastically for the Razorbacks that year as they made a surprise run to the SEC title game. Speaking of...
3. The wishbone is not the Wildcat.
At this point, who doesn't have some sort of Wildcat-style package in the offense? Sure you could get Ealey and King on the field together by installing the Wildcat, but a lot of its novelty is gone. Defenses now prepare for it just like they prepare for anything other offensive variations.
Any defensive coordinator worth his salary knows how to stop the wishbone, but only those who have Georgia Tech, Air Force, or Navy on the schedule prepare for it (and even then, it's the flexbone). Just because the DC knows what to do doesn't mean his players are ready for it.
Besides, the Wildcat can only accomodate two of Gray, Ealey, and King. Why not use all three if you can?
4. The experience is there to make it happen.
Let's go ahead and assume that Murray and Mettenberger really are the first and second string quarterbacks in some order. That makes Gray the third string, but he'd have to move up to second string if one of the other two get hurt or suspended. If that did come to pass, Gray has the experience to step in and fill that role fully. He's in his fourth year in the program and understands the offense fully. If he had to drop his wishbone duties for some reason, he can slide back into the standard quarterback role easily.
Ealey and King also have been in the program for more than a year, so they know the standard running plays well. After all, Georgia (like most pro-style teams in college and the NFL) only uses a small number of running plays. They've surely got those down by now, so they can take on some new learning with the wishbone package.
5. It sets someone up the bomb.
The flexbone and wishbone alike don't take away the ability to do some downfield passing. In fact, play action when the defense is expecting triple option is downright devastating. Thomas averaged a quarter of the entire field per catch. Don't you think A.J. Green would love to get in on some of that action? Granted, Gray doesn't have the strongest arm on the team, but when Green is open, he knows how to go get the ball.
When should it be revealed?
Obviously, the season opener against UL-Lafayette is not the time. Mettenberger has been suspended for the game, so Gray will be one of the top two quarterbacks regardless. Plus, who unveils new tricks against early season cupcakes? Oh, right. Well, no one unveils new, season-long strategies against them anyway.
Week 2 against South Carolina is probably the right time. For one thing the Gamecocks always play Georgia tough somehow, and there's going to be a sense of urgency around that program. They're going to want that one even more badly than usual since this is basically their "if an SEC East title is ever going to happen, now is the time" season. Given the way Mark Ingram tore the Gamecock defense up last year with the Wildcat, they would seem to be vulnerable to something like the wishbone. It would help UGA get an edge in the game.
Now, discretion is the better part of valor. The 'bone may not work so well against Mississippi State, Florida, or especially Georgia Tech since the defenses on those teams regularly face option football in practice against their own offenses. Same probably goes for a hypothetical SEC title game matchup versus Alabama because Nick Saban knows about these things inside and out.
Still, having an alternate offensive package that's drastically different than the base offense is a good idea. It gives opposing defenses something else to work on that reduces the preparation time against Georgia's base offense. That's a huge issue given the relatively small amount of practice time that the NCAA allows. It also would take some pressure off of whichever freshman wins the starting job as the success of the entire offense won't be on his shoulders.
I'd be willing to be that Richt and Bobo are planning to get Gray involed somehow in the offense in 2010. If it's not in the wishbone, it will be a missed opportunity.