published Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Georgia fullback Figgins a receiving threat

Georgia senior fullback Bruce Figgins runs with the ball in a game earlier this year.
Georgia senior fullback Bruce Figgins runs with the ball in a game earlier this year.
Photo by Contributed Photo.

ATHENS, Ga. — The play is called "344-Fullback," and Georgia players love it during games and loathe it during practices.

It starts with a play-fake by quarterback Aaron Murray and with fullback Bruce Figgins blocking on the edge before slipping out into the open field. Once Murray dumps the ball to Figgins, the 6-foot-4, 272-pound senior sets out to demolish 180-pound cornerbacks.

"It's a play that has been working for us," Figgins said, smiling. "When they call it, my eyes get really big."

The Bulldogs have thrown successfully to Figgins five times this season, gaining 63 yards. Georgia went to him a sixth time in last week's 27-13 win at Ole Miss, with Figgins getting open again, but Murray sailed the attempt.

Georgia coach Mark Richt said the fullback is the primary receiver on the play, while the tight end runs a deeper route and a receiver clears out if there is a receiver on that side. The play often results in the fullback and tight end being open.

"What happens is that people are in man coverage, and you might be in I-formation and your tight end is being covered man-to-man, and usually an inside linebacker is covering your fullback," Richt said. "When you come downhill, as we'll do running the power play where Bruce takes an angle to block the defensive end, that linebacker isn't 100 percent sure if it's a run or pass right away by the track of the fullback. When he ends up splitting out into the flats, that guy is a little bit behind normally."

Figgins is no stranger to pass routes, having played tight end during the 2007-08 seasons and again last year before switching to fullback this past spring. In the '07 opener against Oklahoma State, he caught an 11-yard touchdown in a 35-14 victory.

He was used more in the run game because of his size but did have nine catches for 83 yards and three scores entering this season.

"Most fullbacks have grown up blocking with a catch here or there, but he's grown up with the ball in his hands," Murray said. "He does a great job of getting that body behind his shoulder pads. When he does get tackled, he's still falling forward for positive yardage."

Georgia's defensive backs were thrilled to have the season start so they no longer had to defend "344-Fullback" in preseason scrimmages.

"Once he gets the ball in his hands, the only thing you can do is get out of the way or go low on him," said 5-11, 176-pound cornerback Branden Smith. "If you go high, he becomes a train, and you might as well get ready to see your head in the dirt. Our DBs have gone up against him, and it's not a good look."

Sanders Commings, who plays safety and cornerback, tackled Figgins on that play in the spring and sustained a concussion that caused him to miss G-Day.

Figgins has yet to carry the ball on a running play, not that he's complaining. He's too busy having fun as a receiver in open space.

"It's a pretty effective play," Richt said, "and it's one that is so simple sometimes that you don't call it enough."

Malcome, Owens leave

Richt announced after Wednesday's two-hour practice that redshirt freshman tailback Ken Malcome and sophomore cornerback Derek Owens will transfer. Malcome appeared in one game for the Bulldogs, getting one carry for no yards against Coastal Carolina, while Owens played in three games this season and had two tackles.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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