ATHENS, Ga. — Up-tempo, no-huddle offenses might be en vogue, but there is still is a place in college football for the old-school fullback.
Just ask Louisiana State and Georgia, which will have bruisers J.C. Copeland and Quayvon Hicks on display Saturday in the teams’ top-10 matchup.
“It’s really rare,” Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said of the position’s place nowadays. “I think you’ve got mirrored offenses from the standpoint that you’ve got wideouts, both of us have got really good quarterbacks, athletic tight ends and I know their offensive line is really physical. And both of them do have fullbacks that can carry the ball and they’re physical fullbacks, too. We’ve got to be ready to be play.”
Besides Georgia and LSU, Arkansas is the only other team in the Southeastern Conference that lists a fullback on an 11-player offensive depth chart.
The tailbacks will be in the spotlight, no doubt Saturday.
Georgia’s Todd Gurley leads the SEC at 125.7 rushing yards per game and LSU’s Jeremy Hill is third with 117.
The 6-foot-2, 257-pound Hicks and the 6-foot, 270-pound Copeland use their big bodies to clear the way as lead blockers.
“You don’t hear much about Hicks, but I get as fired up watching Hicks on film as I do Gurley,” former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Andre Ware said calling the Georgia-North Texas game Saturday for SEC TV.
Georgia didn’t rely much on the fullback the past two seasons, accounting for just seven total carries. Hicks has already rushed for 67 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
Hicks, a sophomore, was recruited by most schools as a defensive end, but he was offered by Georgia as a fullback as a junior out of Pierce County High School.
Copeland is now playing in an offense run by former NFL head coach and coordinator Cam Cameron.
“They pound the ball just like we pound it,” Hicks said. “It’s going to be a physical game.”
“They’re not going to try to trick you,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “They’re just going to line up and maul you. That’s their goal. And then they’ll be able to create some good matchups with some great receivers and a quarterback who can sling it.”
Copeland, a senior, was a high school teammate of Georgia offensive guard Chris Burnette at Troup County High School in LaGrange. He was moved from defensive tackle to fullback in 2010.
“He’s a really big dude,” Georgia inside linebacker Ramik Wilson said.
Copeland, who has six career rushing touchdowns, provided a big block to Hill on a 49-yard touchdown against Auburn Saturday on a third-and-two.
“It’s really tough because he’s a big guy that will not only hit you head up but he’ll also chop you coming through the hole,” Georgia safety Josh Harvey-Clemons said. “We’ve really got to be prepared, but I feel like we’ll be all right because facing him because we have gone against Quayvon in practice a lot. We’re pretty much used to big guys like that.”
The game will be a “street fight,” Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo predicted.
“Two teams that try to establish the run and are physical and are going to still put the ball in the air and be balanced,” he said. “That’s what we’re going to talk about this week. `You better come ready to be in a fight on Saturday because that’s what it’s going to be.’”