Georgia’s backfield is thin and battered entering spring

semerson@macon.comFebruary 27, 2013 

ATHENS -- By the time the season opener at Clemson rolls around, the Georgia football team figures to have both of its star tailbacks, at least one good backup and a couple of reliable fullbacks.

But when spring practice begins Saturday, the backfield will be pretty bare.

Keith Marshall, one half of the “Gurshall” tandem that starred as freshman, will miss at least the first week of spring practice with a hamstring injury. Marshall incurred the injury while running for the UGA track team recently.

That leaves Todd Gurley -- other half of the tandem -- as the only healthy tailback who was recruited to campus on scholarship. The team does still have Brandon Harton, a former walk-on who has been awarded with scholarships the past two seasons, with recruits A.J. Turman and Brendan Douglas arriving in the fall.

Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo answered “not at all” on Wednesday when asked if it bothered him to have a player get hurt running track.

“He pulled his hamstring playing football last spring and missed nine practices and still did pretty well in the fall. So I don’t get too beat up about it as long as he’ll be ready to go,” Bobo said.

Still, Bobo acknowledged that they would have to be careful with the tailbacks this spring, given the rather thin depth.

“There’s no question it’s something we’re going to have to talk about as a staff and hash out about how much contact you truly give those guys, because depth is a concern there,” Bobo said. “We can’t let our competitive juices get so much where we want to win every drill and wear Todd Gurley out at the same time. We’ll have to be smart about it as coaches. We’ve still got to get work out of it too. It’s a fine line.”

Meanwhile, the fullback position got one body thinner but on a permanent basis. Zander Ogletree, who finished last season as the starter, has left the team for what were called medical reasons.

Head coach Mark Richt did not elaborate much when asked about Ogletree.

“He’s got a medical issue, and he can’t play anymore,” Richt said. “But he’s gonna stay in school. We hope he does well in school and graduates.”

Zander Ogletree accompanied his twin brother Alec to Georgia in 2010, and while he didn’t become a star like his brother, Zander Ogletree was a contributor off-and-on for the offense. In three years, he had seven carries for 37 yards and five catches for 32 yards. It’s not a huge stat line, but he did have a couple highlights, including the longest run by a fullback during the 2011 season (21 yards at Georgia Tech) and a 10-yard catch at Auburn this past season.

Both Ogletree brothers were suspended the first four games of the 2012 season, for what sources said was a second violation of the UGA student-athlete drug policy. When they returned, Alec Ogletree, an inside linebacker, had a spectacular season, leading the team in tackles and rocketing up NFL draft boards. He announced minutes after the Capital One Bowl that he was leaving early for the NFL draft.

Now Zander Ogletree also will be gone from the team, at least playing-wise, but remains on scholarship, and the team said he’s on track to graduate.

Extra points

• Josh Harvey-Clemons, the highly rated 2012 recruit who played sparingly as a freshman, will rotate between safety and outside linebacker this year.

“He’s very versatile, and quite frankly there’s just certain games where he may add more value at safety and other games he may add more value at outside linebacker,” Richt said.

• Ramik Wilson will play inside linebacker during the spring and start out as the first-teamer alongside Amarlo Herrera. Wilson has rotated between inside and outside linebacker his first two seasons at Georgia.

“I think the combination of Amarlo and Ramik with the two early signees (Ryne Rankin and Reggie Carter) will allow us to have a feel for exactly what those guys can handle and do going into the summer,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “Once summer gets here, we’ll have a few other guys coming in that we’ll mix in there and put them where we think they can help us for next year.

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