ATHENS -- Brendan Douglas knows he can’t give off the impression that he’s in awe. He knows he has to act like he belongs, and so far the general agreement is that he does.
Still, there are times Douglas looks around and can’t quite believe it.
“It’s kind of weird sitting in the meeting room with them. I’m like, ‘Man there’s Todd Gurley, and there’s Keith Marshall,’ ” Douglas said. “They’re superstars.”
And Douglas was a two-star recruit, according to one of the major recruiting sites. He was the lowest-rated member of Georgia’s signing class this year.
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And yet when the season begins Aug. 31, there’s an increasing chance that Douglas will play, whether it’s getting carries off the bench or just on special teams. Douglas doesn’t care either way.
“I didn’t really think that I would be here,” he said.
Now that he is, Douglas is part of the mix for one of the few position battles on Georgia’s star-studded offense: No. 3 tailback. Gurley and Marshall are set in the top two spots, then there are two walk-ons (Brandon Harton and Kyle Karempelis) and three freshmen: Douglas, A.J. Turman and J.J. Green.
Turman arrived on campus with the most credentials, being a consensus four-star recruit out of Orlando, Fla. He’s been out the past few practices with a knee and ankle sprain. Green, a 5-foot-7 former cornerback, was only moved to tailback this past spring because of the few players at the spot. But he proved so adept there that he stayed, and during practice this past week he barreled over the line for a touchdown.
It was expected that one or two of these freshmen tailbacks would redshirt this season. But they’ve done well enough that offensive coordinator Mike Bobo indicated that’s unlikely.
“J.J. definitely has an advantage because he was here in the spring, but we’re still trying to settle on who that third or fourth back is and get them guys ready to play,” Bobo said. “It could be all five of those guys play and none of them redshirting.”
Georgia’s tailback situation might make this a vital year for all three. The team has already secured commitments from top recruits Sony Michel and Nick Chubb. They’re set to arrive on campus next year, the possible successors to Gurley and Marshall -- unless Douglas, Turman and Green can spoil the party.
That Douglas is even part of this discussion, rather than relegated to special teams or fullback, might be a surprise to outsiders. But it’s not to Bulldogs running backs coach Bryan McClendon.
Douglas played at Aquinas, a small school in Augusta. He put up big numbers his final two years of high school, nearly 3,000 rushing yards and 49 touchdowns, but it wasn’t given too much stock because it was only GHSA Class A.
Douglas caught McClendon’s eye the summer before his senior year at one of Georgia’s on-campus camps. As Douglas remembers it, he ran a 4.47 in the 40-yard dash.
“They watched that and said, ‘Man you gotta do that again,’ ” Douglas said.
So he did.
“Same exact time. So I think that’s when I caught their eye a little bit,” he said.
But McClendon had also been impressed by Douglas’ skills on game film. So along with the strong time at that first camp, the coaches invited Douglas back to the “Dawg Night” camp later in the summer, where the competition is even tougher.
“The thing I liked about him the most is him being as big as he is, and as physical as he is, he’s extremely athletic, he catches the ball well, and he’s a smart kid,” McClendon said. “So you know if you’re smart enough and you’re tough enough you’re going to allow yourself to get better, you’re going to get better.”
They wanted to offer Douglas a scholarship, but the numbers wouldn’t allow it. So they waited, and in the meantime, Douglas was offered by Georgia Tech. He felt obliged to accept.
“He was always the guy that if we could throw out another offer it would have been him -- for me,” McClendon said. “And it worked out, and obviously we had to some talking him out of it, because in the meantime he had committed to Tech. But thankfully we were able to persuade him to get over here.”
It happened just before National Signing Day in February. Douglas was asked how Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson reacted to his de-commitment.
“He wasn’t too happy,” Douglas said. “But that’s the past, and I’m trying not to think about that too much and try to work as hard as I can here.”