ATHENS -- It’s easy to lose Brendan Douglas in the shuffle of Georgia’s running backs depth chart.
With the established duo of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall entering their junior seasons, it has been the freshman tandem of Sony Michel and Nick Chubb that has stolen much of the preseason hype. So naturally, when Georgia head coach Mark Richt first met with the media at the start of preseason practice, Michel and Chubb were two of the first names mentioned by reporters.
And while Richt likes what he has seen from his freshman backs, he reminded everyone of the pecking order at that position.
“Right now on the depth chart, we’ve got three guys ahead of them,” Richt said. “Gurley, Marshall and Brendan Douglas.”
Freshman running backs garnering early media attention isn’t a new concept at Georgia. Gurley’s standout freshman campaign two years ago initiated his ascension to national recognition. Marshall, to a lesser extent, experienced the same.
Douglas understands that it’s just the cyclical nature of college football.
“That’s just kind of how it is usually,” he said. “The new guys come in. Everybody is talking about them, wondering how they’re doing.”
After all, it was Douglas who created the buzz just a few games into his freshman season last year. He produced in both the running and passing games in 2013, accounting for 345 yards on the ground with three scores and 172 yards through the air with another touchdown.
Even he was caught a little off guard by his immediate contributions.
“Not really (did he expect to play that early),” Douglas said. “I was prepared for it because the coaches do a great job, but I never thought it would be that soon.”
But with the addition of Michel and Chubb, Douglas can easily be viewed as the odd man out in a running backs corps loaded with talent. Gurley will get his carries, as will Marshall if he’s healthy.
How Michel and Chubb will be integrated into the offense is yet to be determined, but coaches are certain Douglas will find his spot in the lineup, receiving plenty of touches.
“Brendan’s not on his own island here,” running backs coach Bryan McClendon said. “He’s deep in the mix. We’re preparing him like he’s going to have to go out there and beat Clemson.”
While his freshman year had its fair share of highlights (namely a bruising first-down run against South Carolina that put the game away), it was far from an error-free season for Douglas. In back-to-back weeks -- against Missouri and Vanderbilt when Gurley was injured -- Douglas coughed up costly fumbles that played pretty significant roles in both losses.
“It was definitely tough when it happened,” Douglas said. “It’s hard to get over at first, but then you realize you just have to get over it and keep working hard.
“It was a tough week, but you’ve just got to battle through that. I think it makes me tougher as a player.”
Those learning experiences have transferred over to Douglas’ sophomore season, as well. His confidence at the start of the preseason, in his own mind, is noticeably higher than it was a year ago.
He’s comfortable with the playbook and isn’t as concerned with slaving over minor details.
“Day one of camp this year compared to day one of camp last year is completely different,” he said. “I know the whole offense now, just being able to go out there and play fast and just knowing what I’ve got.”
So now, his primary worry will be getting ready for Clemson with the rest of the running back group. He’s not sure how he, or anyone else for that matter, will fit into the rotation, but he said that’s not a concern of his.
He did admit, however, that he’d be interested to see how everything falls into place.
“I have no idea. I wish I did,” Douglas said with a chuckle. “We’ll see what happens and see what he likes to do. I guess he can throw us out there, whatever he likes us doing, just mix it up a little bit.”