ATHENS, Ga. Georgia offensive standouts Keith Marshall and Justin Scott-Wesley tore their ACL on the same day, last October in the Tennessee game. One can't help but notice that at spring practice thus far Marshall, doing some drills with the tailbacks, is doing much more than Scott-Wesley, who is just running on the side.
And yet when the season rolls around, Scott-Wesley is the one more likely to play. Marshall's status remains uncertain, and bears watching through the summer.
Part of that has nothing to do with health: Scott-Wesley has already used up a redshirt year, so whenever he's ready to go there's no point in not playing him. (Presumably after his suspension following last year's marijuana arrest.) Marshall, however, has not taken a redshirt year, and it could benefit both Marshall and the team to save a year.
Marshall and fellow tailback Todd Gurley are juniors. The top job is presumably Gurley's for as long as he's on campus, but he has the option of going pro after this season. If he does, Marshall could be the featured tailback for only one year - or two if he redshirts.
Marshall taking a redshirt was labeled a possibility back in December by offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. Since then Marshall has recovered ahead of schedule, but that doesn't mean he will definitely play in 2014, running backs coach Bryan McClendon said Tuesday.
"Right now the plan is to see how far along he is, and then do what's going to be best for him," McClendon said. "That's going to be priority No. 1. To do what's best for him. And that way, I think everybody will be able to sleep good at night."
Georgia can also afford to take it easy with Marshall, even after moving J.J. Green, last year's third-leading rusher, to cornerback. Brendan Douglas, who showed promise as a freshman, is back, and A.J. Turman, who was more highly-recruited than Douglas and Green, is ready to play after redshirting last year.
"Both of those guys are getting tremendously better," McClendon said. "They're improving in every part of their game."
And then of course the duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel arrives in August. Those two high school tailbacks were among the highest-rated players in Georgia's signing class this year.
Marshall may know the competition is on the way, as he's doing everything he can this spring to get back in action.
"I've gotta scale him back a little bit, and tell him: Hey, don't do that, or obviously constantly modifying things for him," McClendon said. "But I'm very pleased with how he's been. Obviously you've just gotta know when you've gotta know when to say when. And that's what I'm talking to him about."
As for Gurley, who has battled injuries for awhile, the star is "doing everything" in spring practice, according to McClendon.
"Todd knows and understands .. they're always going to have something," McClendon said. "The freshest you're ever gonna feel is the start of fall camp. But outside of that it's always gonna be something. I definitely think the guys that are the most successful, they're able to push through when things aren't feeling the best. I definitely think him being able to do that, that's going to (help) him continue to grow as a player."
As for another key injured player, when receivers coach Tony Ball was asked about Malcolm Mitchell on Tuesday, he gave a rather general answer. Mitchell, who tore his ACL in last year's season opener, sustained an injury in his other leg the first week of spring practice and is being held out until the summer.
"Injuries are part of the game," said Ball, who knows that more than anybody considering the players he's lost the past two years. "The position, receiver, it's an explosive, demanding position on your body. We talk all the time about how important it is to have control of our body, and to play with our feet underneath us, so we can stay healthy, while changing directions efficiently. It's part of it. So you understand that it's going to happen. our team of doctors do a good job.
"Malcolm's going to do what he needs to do to get healthy, and if the Lord willing, Malcolm will be fine, and if the Lord willing, Malcolm will be ready. So I don't worry about that."
While not specifying the injury, UGA has said that Mitchell is expected to make a full recovery in time for preseason practice.
And a Rome update
Tight end Jay Rome is also sitting out the spring after having foot surgery. He's also expected to be ready for preseason practices, and probably earlier than that. The initial timetable Georgia's training staff had for Rome was to be a full-go around June.
"I think he may be a hair ahead of where they thought he was, but I still think he'll be more in that range," tight ends coach John Lilly said. "That's still enough time for him."
Rome is expected to be the starting tight end. Right now the only healthy scholarship tight ends in spring camp are redshirt freshman Jordan Davis and junior Quayvon Hicks, and Hicks is just learning the position. Hicks is slated for an H-Back role.