Keith Marshall’s Time is Now
By Matthew Osborne
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Keith Marshall will likely be the starting running back for the Georgia Bulldogs when the season kicks off on September 1.
For Georgia Bulldog freshman running back Keith Marshall, the time to build his legacy in Athens is already upon him.
Following yesterday’s news that Georgia head coach Mark Richt suspended projected starting running back Isaiah Crowell after the 19-year old was arrested on weapons charges, the door is now wide open for the heralded Marshall to earn the now-vacant starting job heading into summer camp.
Ranked as the No. 1 running back prospect in the class of 2011, Crowell’s short career in Athens will forever be remembered for its tumultuous series of events which ultimately led to his abrupt departure.
“I feel sorry for the kid. I feel like he made a lot of bad decisions, but he’s still so young. I just pray for him and I hope that figures things out,” former Georgia RB Tyson Browning told Southern Pigskin.
While many Bulldog fans are still reeling from the news that one of their budding stars is no longer with the program, there certainly will be no shortage of raw talent in the backfield, even without the presence of Crowell.
Just like Crowell the year before him, Marshall was ranked by multiple scouting services as the top running back prospect in his high school class.
A diminutive runner at just 5-11, 190 pounds, Marshall possesses elite speed out of the backfield, and is the type of player who will always have an exceptional highlight film. He is a threat to take it the distance every time he touches the football.
Marshall enrolled in classes at Georgia in time for spring practice, although he missed much of that time with a lingering hamstring injury. The time spent around his coaches and teammates will still serve him well, however, as the transition from high school football to playing running back in the SEC can often be a difficult one to make.
“When it comes to some guys, they come in, and when you go from being a high school all-star to having to compete every week, if you are a good player it makes you better,” Browning said. “It takes hard work and you have to stay focused. At any major college, there are going to be a lot of distractions. As long as you are taking care of yourself off of the field and you have the talent, it will take care of itself on the field.”
While he was limited in his participation during spring drills, Marshall’s talent and work ethic were on full display during the brief time period in which he was at full strength. Richt, for one, was very pleased with what he saw out of his young tailback, as was evidenced by the quotes he made about Marshall following the Bulldogs’ first spring practice session.
“You can tell [Marshall] has very good quickness and very good speed,” Richt said. “He seems to have good running instincts. For a guy in his first college practice and considering everybody else knows the system, I thought he did a pretty good job. You can tell he did an awful lot of studying from the moment he got here until now to be able to function like he did.”
The news of Crowell’s departure is surely demoralizing for a team that has been involved in a bevy of off-field issues since the end of last season, but Marshall provides a ray of hope for a Georgia ground game that has uncharacteristically struggled in the past few years.
While experience and leadership will be in short supply at running back this fall, Marshall’s talent alone provides reason for optimism in the ground game this fall.
“I feel like with the amount of time that Coach Richt and Coach McClendon have had to spend with [Marshall], as long as we don’t have to try to dumb our offense down, because there is so much that these young guys have to pick up in such a short amount of time, I’m still excited,” remarked Browning. “I hate to see a young guy lose an opportunity, but that is why we recruit the best guys in the nation.”
Georgia fans were already expecting big things out of Marshall, but it is clear that he will be called on to be the star of the Bulldog’ running game much earlier than initially anticipated.