TAMPA, Fla. -- For one day in October, Ken Malcome was a former Georgia football player. Even when he decided to return to the team, he was relegated to fifth-string tailback.
Now Malcome is a first-teamer, albeit on a tenuous basis. It’s quite an amazing jump.
“Yeah it is,” Malcome said Wednesday as Georgia continued practice for Monday’s Outback Bowl. “It’s amazing how God works. He pushes you to work through things and sees if you break down. For me, I did break down, but I said, ‘I’m gonna fight it,’ and I came out on top. It’s a good feeling.”
There’s still a lot of work for Malcome to do. He is listed as the No. 1 tailback, but Richard Samuel and Isaiah Crowell are looking to make a run at him.
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But Malcome said he thinks he can maintain his spot. And he also said he wasn’t worrying about top recruit Keith Marshall, who will enroll in January and immediately content for the starting spot.
“I know he’s coming in, but it’s something I don’t really think about,” Malcome said. “I just know in spring, summer, I’ll be getting better myself. I can’t really focus on what other people do, as long as I work to get better.”
Two months ago, Malcome was buried on the depth chart and was so frustrated that he told head coach Mark Richt he was leaving. Richt even announced it to the media. But the next day Malcome came back.
It wasn’t a smooth return. Malcome and fellow backs Crowell and Carlton Thomas were suspended for a game for failed drug tests.
But Malcome, who is 6-foot-0 and 226-pounds, broke through in the most recent two games, rushing for 39 yards at Georgia Tech and 37 against LSU in the SEC championship game. Malcome said he worked harder after being allowed to return to the team, and injuries to other tailbacks also moved Malcome back into the discussion.
“I had a couple good runs against Kentucky. I think that helped me a little bit,” he said.
Richt echoed that but also indicated that Malcome -- and all the tailbacks -- still aren’t in his good graces.
“I think he got in the game and made a couple plays, and I think that more than anything probably helped his confidence and maybe helped our confidence in him a little bit,” Richt said. “But he’s got a ways to go. He’s got a ways to go. They all do.”
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In a larger answer about the changes wrought by social media, Richt belabored the fact that one of his players gets an inordinate amount of attention.
“There’s not a lot of wiggle room or breathing room in regard to anything that happens,” he said. “I mean, Isaiah’s under the weather, and that’s the main story. Certain guys just can’t hardly do anything without having everybody talking about it, or writing about it, tweeting about it, all that kind of thing.”
Richt was referring to tailback Crowell, whose ups and downs his freshman season have been well-chronicled. Crowell sat out the start of Tuesday’s bowl practice because he was sick, but Wednesday he said he was all right.
Crowell was also asked again about Richt’s quote about it being a competitive situation this week.
“Everybody’s getting good reps. Everybody’s working hard. I don’t really know what he means by competitive, because we’ve been doing this the whole season,” Crowelll said.
Crowell was named the SEC freshman of the year. But he seems destined to fall short of reaching 1,000 rushing yards, entering the bowl with 847.
“I’d like to get it. If I didn’t it wouldn’t be a big deal,” he said.
Richt said the players and coaches watched film from the 2009 Capital One Bowl, when Georgia beat Michigan State, but something beyond schemes stuck out.
“The thing that I’ve noticed when I watched the film was the players that we had on offense, a lot of those guys ended up in the NFL,” Richt said. “And a couple of them were freshman linemen. But Cordy Glenn, and Ben Jones and even Justin Anderson, I think all of those three are gonna end up in the NFL. It might’ve been nine or 10 out of 11 guys are gonna end up in the league, are there or are gonna end up there. And so I’m like, ‘Gosh are we as good as we were back then.’ ”
Besides the three linemen Richt mentioned, Georgia’s offense also included quarterback Matt Stafford, tailback Knowshon Moreno, receivers A.J. Green, Mohammed Massaqoui and Mike Moore, fullback Shaun Chapas and tackle Clint Boling.