ORLANDO - The other day at Georgia football practice, Keith Marshall stood alone to the side, waiting patiently to be interviewed, while a crowd gathered a few feet away around Todd Gurley.
Marshall seems okay taking second billing to his fellow freshman tailback, after Marshall was the more heralded recruit this time last year. Gurley's commitment came with a bit less fanfare, but he quickly ascended the depth chart, and has 1,260 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns entering the Capital One Bowl.
"It was crazy," Marshall said. "Especially because he came out of the gates so fast, it was great for him."
But there are signs that Marshall, who had a decent season himself (723 rushing yards and eight touchdowns) will see his role increased on Tuesday.
And by signs, I mean offensive coordinator Mike Bobo coming out and saying so.
“(Marshall) did not get as many touches in the Alabama game, that’s just how the game went and how the other guy was running the ball," Bobo said, alluding to Marshall only getting two carries against Alabama. "But we’ve got a big plan for Keith in this game, and expect him to make plays and play well in this game. He’s running good."
Bobo added that Marshall wasn't at full strength as the season went on.
"He’s had some knee soreness all season, and I think the time off has helped him," Bobo said. "He’ll be fresh, and ready to go on Tuesday.”
Marshall said he's satisfied with how his season went, and is comfortable with having the second tailback spot behind his good friend Gurley.
"I got plenty of carrries this year, I think I did good for myself," Marshall said. "This offseason I'm just focused on getting better."
No major O-line changes
When bowl practice began, offensive line coach Will Friend told his troops that it was an open tryout to see who would start in the bowl. The result? The lineup will essentially be the same, Friend said.
“We’ll probably be like what we were toward the end of the season,” Friend said.
That means Kenarious Gates at left tackle, but Mark Beard will once again get some time there, with Gates moving to left guard.
“Ken had played well toward the last half of the season. He’ll start the game. Mark’s gonna play a bunch though,” Friend said.
It’s not clear that anyone else made a big enough impression to play, other than the injured Austin Long. Freshman Greg Pyke has drawn praise, but they’re not going to burn his redshirt for one game. Long, who still has a chance to play, was having a good month of practice before hurting his hand and requiring surgery.
“I was looking forward to playing him a really good bit,” Friend said. “I thought he deserved to play, I thought he practiced well. And he’s still got a chance to play, depending on how it goes.”
But Friend said the open tryout situation wasn't a waste of time.
“We had good practices in Athens, we’ve had good practices here. They got to compete every day and I thought that was good, to kind of open it up, and go with it from there,” he said.
Coaches are 'grown men'
These days the hot-seat questions are about the other coach. On Saturday, a Nebraska writer asked Georgia head coach Mark Richt to weigh in on being criticized and how to handle it, alluding to some criticism that Bo Pelini is receiving. Richt said the normal sort of thing about trusting the program's overall plan.
As a follow-up, Richt was asked if he instructs his coaches to stay away from message boards.
“No, I don’t tell them," Richt said. "They’re grown men, they can decide what they want to.”
Time for fun?
Saturday afternoon and evening was the time for Georgia players to venture over to Disney World. Gurley, speaking earlier in the day, was ready to take full advantage.
“I remember when I came to Orlando when I was in about the third grade, and just going to all the parks again," he said. "And (now I'm) just trying to enjoy this moment - because it’s free.”
Richt was asked a simple question: Was he having fun? The coach grinned.
“I’d have more fun if the game was today or tomorrow," he said. "After awhile you’re like, Let’s just play the thing. You’re into practice 12, or 13 or 14 in the gameplan. And you’ve been here having a good time for sure, and after awhile you’re like, you know what let’s just play.
"I’d be for practicing maybe three days, playing the game, then hanging around another three days afterwards, and really enjoy the thing. I mean our wives and children are really having a good time but we as coaches we’re working pretty hard, the practices, the film stuff, and the recruiting stuff on the phone. So we stay busy.”