ATHENS - Ken Malcome knows what Marc Deas went through. Malcome knows what it's like to think he's reached the end of his rope at Georgia, and then realize later he made a mistake.
That happened with Deas this spring, and it did last fall with Malcome, who re-joined the Bulldogs a day after his departure was announced.
"People panic, the same way I did. And once you're away, like (Deas) was - it took him two weeks, it took me a day - but once you have time to think. We love Georgia football and our friends here, and we want to play and compete here," Malcome said. "I think him coming back shows how much of a team we really are. He didn't really want to leave us. That's a good reason we all stay."
It has worked out for Malcome so far: As Georgia gets ready for its spring game, he's in line to be one of Georgia's two top tailbacks, battling it out with Isaiah Crowell for the top spot.
So the upward swing continues for the man who was once buried on the tailback depth chart.
Malcome was a highly-regarded recruit out of Southwest Dekalb High School in 2010. He redshirted his first year at Georgia, although the coaches flirted with playing him. But for the first part of 2011 nothing was going right for Malcome; at one point he found himself fifth on the depth chart, behind former walk-on Brandon Harton, and Malcome decided to leave.
But a day later he re-considered. Then he, Crowell and Carlton Thomas were suspended a game for drug violations. But Malcome continued to practice well, and by the end of the year he was the starter, getting the carry first in the Outback Bowl and at Georgia Tech. He ended up with 174 yards, and while he wasn't spectacular he showed a power-running style that helped move the chains.
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said Malcome has carried that into the offseason, saying Malcome has had "a great spring."
"I see a really, really big improvement in that football player," Bobo said. "Someone who's always been a physical-looking guy but sometimes played a little timid. Maybe not knowing what to do but unsure of himself. But last year the confidence he got playing at the end of the season has helped him this spring. Just really pleased with his progress and his attitude."
Malcome figures to be one of the featured tailbacks in Saturday's spring game, along with Crowell. Freshman Keith Marshall was expected to be a factor but he's been out with a hamstring injury and won't play. Veteran Richard Samuel, who was playing more fullback, is also out with a concussion. Thomas transferred on the first day of spring practice, and recruit Todd Gurley doesn't arrive until the summer.
Marshall and Gurley will probably still give Malcome and Crowell a push in the preseason. And that's fine with Malcome.
"Yeah, I think that's the best way, and the best way to make it to the championship, if we have fresh bodies," Malcome said. "I'm the power back. I know Isaiah's a little faster and quicker. We've got our strengths and weaknesses and we're gonna take advantage of it in all aspects of the game. I think Keith can come in and still be that guy too. A lot of people are saying: Is he gonna be ready? Keith, I think he can be. He's got a lot to learn, and needs to get more comfortable. But I had the same problem."
Malcome was asked how satisfying it was to be in this position, considering where he was early last season.
"It's most satisfying. But I haven't slowed down yet," he said. "I'm getting better every day. Every day coach is talking to me, telling me I'm getting better. So I'm cool with it, but I haven't reached my potential yet."
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