Bulldogs Solid at Running Back
By Matthew Osborne
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Even with the loss of their projected starter, Georgia's outlook at running back is still exceedingly bright for the upcoming season.
When last season’s SEC Freshman of the Year, Isaiah Crowell, was dismissed from the Georgia program by head coach Mark Richt approximately two months ago, many Bulldog fans expressed immediate concern over the situation in the backfield.
That angst amongst the Georgia faithful likely stemmed from a 2011 season in which the Bulldogs were frequently decimated by injury at the running back position. In fact, the injury situation in the backfield became so bad last season that former walk-on Brandon Harton, who stands just five-foot-six, finished the year with 54 carries despite starting the campaign as the fifth or sixth option at tailback.
Injury situations as severe as the one that Georgia faced at tailback last season are rare, however, and should not cause a sense of uneasiness heading forward.
Even with the loss of their projected starter, the Bulldogs’ outlook at running back is still exceedingly bright for the upcoming season.
Redshirt sophomore Ken Malcome, who has had issues with concussions in the past, was recently named as the likely starter for the Bulldogs’ season opener against Buffalo.
A former four-star prospect, Malcome was named Georgia’s Most Improved Offensive Player at the conclusion of spring practice. He only carried the ball 42 times last season, but that was mainly due to the aforementioned concussion issues.
Now playing with a clean bill of health, Malcome has thoroughly impressed his coaches and teammates during fall camp.
And while some Georgia fans may be surprised to hear that Malcome will likely earn the starting nod when the Bulldogs start the 2012 campaign in nine days, the Decatur-native reacted rather nonchalantly upon hearing the news of his starting role.
"It's not that I don't care. That's what I've been thinking anyway," Malcome recently told The Associated Press. "I'm going to keep pushing. I'm not going to let that one statement go to my head. I'm still going to be the same Ken Malcome on the practice field. It's not going to change anything. It just gives me more confidence about what I can do. It's good to know he has the confidence to start me."
Although Malcome has been labeled as the starter for the immediate future, things could potentially change in a hurry, as a pair of talented true freshmen have impressed with their performances in camp.
Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley, both of whom are North Carolina products, came to Athens with lofty expectations for their first full seasons of collegiate football.
To this point, it appears that neither player has disappointed with his play on the field.
Gurley was the Bulldogs’ leading rusher in their most recent scrimmage, carrying the ball six times for 54 yards. Marshall gained just 17 yards on his three carries, but he did have a lengthy touchdown run called back due to a holding penalty, and also caught a touchdown pass.
Of all of the backs, Gurley appears to have generated the most buzz during camp. He has produced a handful of long runs when toting the football in recent weeks, and has also shown uncanny consistency for such a young tailback.
Regardless of which player ultimately starts the opener, Malcome, Gurley and Marshall will all receive a fair share of carries once the season begins.
Fullback Richard Samuel IV, who has played running back in the past, is also expected to be utilized as a ball carrier on occasion this fall.
In the grand scheme of things, success in the running game is about more than simply the talent of the starting running back; depth and a quality offensive line are also necessary parts of the equation.
No matter who is lining up beside him the backfield come September, quarterback Aaron Murray expects big things out of his collection of running backs this fall.
"All of them are very talented backs. All of them had tremendous camps," Murray said. "I'm looking forward to what they're going to do come season time."