They call it “The Chute.” It’s one of the drills Georgia running backs must negotiate early every practice and Bruce Figgins dreads it like a daily root canal.
The object is to zigzag as fast as possible through a series of metal gates while stepping over dummies and holding the football “high and tight.” This is not much of a challenge for 5-foot-7 tailback Carlton Thomas or even the 5-foot-11 Isaiah Crowell. But for the 6-foot-4, 274-pound Figgins, slipping under the metal bar maybe four feet from the ground can be problematic.
“I don’t know how high they are but ‘CT’ can almost stand straight up to them. They come up to his nose,” said Figgins, a senior fullback.”You can imagine how hard it is for me to get under them. Me and Richard [Samuel] have the toughest time. Our heads are always clinking it.”
Trouble is, if you “clink” the metal bar, you have to repeat the drill. So often running backs coach Bryan McClendon is yelling at Figgins, “run it again!”
“I’ll be looking at Coach Mac and he’s like, ‘Don’t be looking at me like that. Get under the chute!’,” Figgins said with a laugh.
It is a bit of an oddity to have a guy Figgins’ size in the backfield. But short on depth at the fullback position, the Bulldogs saw the versatile fifth-year senior as the answer to their problems.
“The tight end and the fullback position, a lot of their assignments actually carry over,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “He’s almost the same guy in a lot of formations we run. . . . Bruce is a big fullback who’s athletic enough to re-direct when he’s got to block a certain person. He fits into all the things we need there. He’s got to get used to blocking moving targets in more space and that takes time. But I’ve seen fullbacks that weigh 220 who can do a great job and guys that weight 280 and do it great. It’s just a matter of knowing what to do and wanting to do it bad enough and is he tough enough for that type of contact because it’s a high-contact position.”
A tight end his first four seasons, including a redshirt year, Figgins is sharing fullback duties with the 5-foot-10, 224-pound Zander Ogletree. Figgins entered camp as the No. 1 guy and, by all accounts, will line up first when the Bulldogs face off against No. 7 Boise State on Sept. 3.
Figgins was able to go through the spring at his new position and just now is starting to feel comfortable calling himself a fullback.
“I’m getting more comfortable with the position, more comfortable with the others guys now,” Figgins said. “I’m still learning and working on getting my pad level down, staying low and knee bend, that’s the biggest thing.”
It’s certainly a formidable sight when Figgins is running around the end leading the 6-2, 240-pound Samuel on a power sweep.
“I think people will be a little intimidated by it,” Figgins said. “That’s 500 pounds moving right there. And Richard’s not slow at all. I have to speed up just to get going ahead of him because he’ll run up your back if you don’t. I think we’ll be able to move some people out of the way.”