In the second edition of our award-rejected preseason series, we delve into the Georgia football team's outlook in the backfield as practice gets set to begin on Aug. 1.
STARTER: Todd Gurley, Jr.
OTHERS RETURNING: Keith Marshall, Jr.; Brendan Douglas, Soph.; A.J. Turman, R-Fr.; Kyle Karempelis, Sr. (walk-on); Kyle Vaugher, Jr. (walk-on).
NEW GUYS: Nick Chubb, Fr.; Sony Michel, Fr.
WHAT TO WATCH: Gurley’s health ceased to be an issue after an uneventful spring, and that was with the coaches giving him a full workload. So it doesn’t seem likely that the coaches will treat their star tailback gingerly in August. Now it’s the health of the other member of the (don’t call them) Gurshall tandem. Marshall should be a full go on the first day of practice, and he’ll have a month to try to get back into pure game speed. Then it gets real interesting at the tailback spot, where Douglas proved himself as a serviceable (in the best sense of the word) backup, and a change-of-pace for Gurley and Marshall. But Chubb and Michel, by all reports, are elite talents who it will be hard to keep off the field. Then amidst all this you have Turman, who redshirted last year after a nagging injury. It’s one of those (cliché’ alert) pleasant problems to have. But it’s a problem nonetheless, and determining a pecking order and a plan for dispersing carries will be assistant coach Bryan McClendon’s chief concern.
STARTER: Merritt Hall, Jr.
OTHERS RETURNING: Quayvon Hicks, Jr.; Taylor Maxey, Sr.; Cameron Faulkner, Sr.; Dominic Bryan, Soph. (walk-on).
NEW GUYS: None.
WHAT TO WATCH: The move of Hicks to H-back (more on that shortly) basically removes doubt as to Hall’s starting status. The doubt returns if the H-back experiment is abandoned or Hall struggles in the preseason. But the former walk-on didn’t get to this point by lollygagging, and the coaches have enough confidence in him that he’s started seven games in two years. So it’s reached the point where Hall will have to lose the job rather than have someone else take it.
STARTER: Quayvon Hicks, Jr.
ANYBODY ELSE? : This is a new position, put into Georgia’s offense with Hicks in mind. It’s not necessarily a starting spot in the offense, but then again neither is fullback. (Georgia’s base offense at this point is a three-wide receiver set.) Hicks worked with the tight ends in the spring, after spending his first two seasons at fullback. Mike Bobo hasn’t announced yet exactly what he’ll do with Hicks this preseason. It’s always possible that Bobo falls in love with the H-Back position – it was a staple of the Joe Gibbs offenses in the ‘80s – and makes it more of a focal point. For now, however, it’s basically a one-man spot without any certainty on how often that one man will be on the field.
WHAT TO WATCH: Hicks, who is a physical specimen, could make things really interesting if he has a strong preseason. That doesn’t mean he would be done playing fullback or spend some time at a pure tight end spot. But Bobo has in mind using the H-back as a new wrinkle in the offense, and if Hicks shows he can play the spot well, then it’s another part of Georgia’s offensive arsenal.
Next up: Receivers and tight ends.