The latest in our series looking at each position after spring practice, and before summer workouts begin and recruits arrive.
Starter: Todd Gurley, Jr.
Top backup(s): Keith Marshall, Jr.
Also in the room: Brendan Douglas, Soph.; A.J. Turman, R-Fr., Kyle Karempelis, Sr. (walk-on.)
On the way: Nick Chubb, Fr.; Sony Michel, Fr.
The skinny: So Gurley is pretty good. Not sure if you were aware, but he is, and he had a good and healthy spring, and the expectations for this season will be high. We’re talking, Heisman-high, if he can stay on the field. Pretty decent chance he’ll start. But other tailbacks will get carries too, and that’s where the intrigue starts. Marshall is the definite No. 2 and a big part of the offense, as long as he’s healthy. Right now he’s on track to be ready for summer workouts, and if he looks back to his old self he’s going to play. Don’t forget about Douglas, who had 345 yards and three touchdowns last year, showing promise as a bull-rushing, straight-ahead runner who could occasionally get into the secondary. Then there’s Turman, who redshirted last year after a preseason injury set him behind. Turman didn’t quite make a big leap this spring, but there will still be time this preseason to show coaches he needs to be part of the mix. But a very crowded mix it is about to be. Chubb and Michel were two of Georgia’s top recruits, and the comparison to the Gurley-Marshall tandem of 2012 isn’t far-fetched, according to analysts. Either one or both could prove too good not to play right away. Those tailback depth problems of last year? It’s hard to see them being an issue in 2014.
What happens next: Chubb and Michel arrive, and Marshall presumably gets clearance from trainers to be a full-go. It’s still not out of the realm of possibility that Marshall redshirts, but the coaches apparently didn’t broach it to him this spring. Again, Marshall is the solid No. 2, but it will be a free-for-all after that to determine who gets carries. Douglas, Turman, Chubb and Michel will all get a look. Even Karempelis will get practice reps. At some point the depth chart will have to be chopped down, but until then the coaches will watch in delight at their wealth of options.
Coachspeak: “Spring ball, I’ll be honest with you, in the beginning it was kind of boring (to Gurley). ‘Get me to the game.’ Just like the fans sometimes. Spring ball’s good, but let’s get to the season. That’s a little bit like how he felt. But he really turned it up a notch after that first week, and started getting everybody excited about him.” – Mark Richt.
Starter: Merritt Hall, Jr.
Top backup(s): Quayvon Hicks, Jr. (part-time).
Also in the room: Taylor Maxey, Sr.; Sam Kennon, R-Fr.; Cameron Faulkner, Sr.
On the way: None.
The skinny: The way was cleared for Hall to own the starting spot when Hicks was moved to the H-back role. That doesn’t mean Hicks won’t still play some fullback. He will. But when the team is in a traditional I, or at least for most of its normal playbook, Hall will likely be the fullback. The coaches like his consistency, especially in blocking, which is obviously the focus of this position. Hall hasn’t done much else in his two seasons (just three rushing attempts and two catches) but you never know, Mike Bobo may try to get him more involved.
What happens next: Hicks will remain an X-factor, based on how much the coaches decide to use him and at what spot. Meanwhile, the group of walk-ons behind Hall (himself a former walk-on) will be in a continuing competition to be the main backup.