Georgia Bulldogs’ 2021 defense may go down as one of the best of the decade, but there was one running back who took it to the Dawgs during their run to the National Championship: Dameon Pierce.
After watching his film, this pick may be my favorite in the past three years. For any who read my articles covering the draft for the past four years, you know I haven’t agreed with much of the Texans’ last three draft classes. Nor have I been able to predict the picks accurately...
Pierce is the anti-Arian Foster. He’ll Mike Tyson an ear if it’s in the way of his path to the end zone. When a running back runs with fierce passion, you immediately think they are a bell cow with more mileage than a rancher’s 1998 Toyota Tacoma, but Pierce only rushed 100 times this past season. Compared to the 98th pick Brian Robinson at 271 carries and Isaiah Spiller the 123rd pick who had 367 carries the past two years, Pierce is a fresh and unweathered back.
Even so, the film is undeniable, so let’s get into it.
The Gators didn’t roll Pierce out in the offense until the end of the first quarter. On this zone scheme, watch Pierce’s emphasis and directness on hitting the hole in front of him until the last moment.
His body and demeanor create an overcompensation by Georgia’s LB to get over the top of the zone blockers to cut off the run. This creates a natural cutback lane.
His footwork may not be special between the tackles, but he has THE BEST balance and footwork mid-contact. The leg drive and tenacity are something to behold.
We can talk about technique and reading the line of scrimmage all we want. sometimes you are just a badder man than the person in front of you. We need more of them.
Alright second strong play from Pierce. Unfortunately internet doesn’t have great film here, but it’s a simple downfield run before the end of the half.
Pierce does a good job evaluating the offensive line and seeing a seal has formed within his primary gap. Most RBs right now are taught to physically wait for the hole to develop and string the play out. Pierce isn’t like most RBs right now. He sees the opportunity to punish the Bulldogs for poor over pursuing and not finishing the play.
Here’s a better cut of film on Pierce’s arguably best play. Most of the arguments against Pierce stem from his limited mobility and vision. His longest run of the season last year was 27 yards... but when he gets to the open field, he’s a bowling ball down an alley.
On second and five, Pierce takes the ball out of the backfield and reads his bocks beautifully. Georgia’s behemoths up front clog everything, but Florida does a fantastic job getting to the defense’s second level. This condenses the defense so quickly that Pierce can bounce this run outside for a huge gain.
Pierce isn’t fast. You’ll see that on game day soon enough. But he cuts corners and is sharp with his angles. He rides the crest of the offensive line instead of looping to get more downhill earlier. Best example is that Alvin Kamara is a looper when he bounces runs, Pierce rides the momentum of the blocks. It plays to his choppy steps and lower center of gravity.
Not saying one is better than the other tactically, it’s simply an evaluation of different styles.
He’s a Battle Top pinging off linebackers and refusing to go down. If you are looking for poetry in motion, welcome to the Blink-182 of running backs.
Let’s bring him down to earth and tell you what he’s not. First, he’s not a lead blocker and the Gators using him as such was a mistake. So was their entire offense last season. They had talent everywhere and chose to be a gimmick system.
Right after his big run, Florida puts him in what I believe will be his best formation. But as you’ll see his timid blocking in stretch plays. As the lead block to the right side, Pierce sees the man he’s supposed to block, but catches the nickel corner streaking in. He tries to shield his man from the running back, but he’s lost all momentum and angle. This is simply Pierce making nothing out of nothing. I hate most everything about this play and the more I watch it the less I want to be upset at Pierce because this play was schemed up so badly.
This next play is what I fear the most. If the Texans offensive line doesn’t gel well, it will enforce bad habits such as this. This game is all but over, however Pierce can’t be trying to turn the corner on first and ten against a defense of this caliber.
If Pierce outruns a single LB or safety in the NFL, I’ll shave the little hair on my head I have left. Sure, this play is snuffed out by the defense, but he needs to turn upfield before he gets to the numbers. When he doesn’t do what he is good at, he’s an adequate RB at best. Stick to the hits, Pierce.
What we didn’t get to see in this game was Pierce catch the ball out of the backfield. He’s a capable pass catcher, and maybe we do another film review purely to put this on record.
As linebackers get smaller and more pass-protection oriented, Pierce is the perfect counter to that. I can see the Texans sticking BOTH Pierce and Burkhead in the same backfield in shotgun and forcing the defense to play a bigger, slower defense than they normally would.
Unlike my friend’s Expectations for Dameon Pierce to start sooner rather than later, I don’t believe he’s a day one guy. Pierce made his money as a change of pace bulldozer to soften up the defense and mess with the linebacker’s reads. He was the baseball equivalent of a 95 mph fastball at chin height. He’s going to make you think twice, but it’s hard to evaluate his true potential.