ATHENS -- Sony Michel began the season as a versatile change-of-pace option out of the backfield.
He'd spell Nick Chubb running the ball and would line up at receiver to give Georgia an outside advantage on defensive backs. While he technically wasn't a starter, he still played meaningful snaps, although his touches hovered around 10 per game.
And then Chubb's season-ending knee injury occurred on the first play from scrimmage against Tennessee on Oct. 10. It changed things for Michel and how he would be used. It also altered how he'd approach practices and games from a leadership standpoint.
Having the added responsibility on the field and the additional attention that comes with it, Michel realized more eyes are looking at him inside the locker room.
"I'm just leading by example, showing guys the right way, trying to stay consistent of doing it the Georgia way," Michel said.
Michel isn't lining up too much as a receiver anymore and it's not necessarily because of the broken bone he sustained in his right hand on the first offensive play against Florida. He's been called upon to take a much bigger role as a lead runner, meaning many more runs between the tackles -- meaning much more contact his body has to take.
He's taken plenty of bumps and bruises and has done so while impressing his teammates in the process.
"I feel like he's responding the way I thought he would," senior tight end Jay Rome said. "He's been through some adversity. He broke his hand. But I've always known he was a tough guy. You wouldn't even know that his hand was broken. He practices hard, plays hard."
Said Michel: "We're toward the end of the season and I don't think any running back in the SEC right now is going to be fresh. It may be soreness from previous games you're probably dealing with."
It's been just more than a month since Michel had to step in for Chubb. Head coach Mark Richt noted Michel has been asked to take many more inside reps, although Michel said he was doing plenty of that during his average of eight carries per game before Chubb went down.
That number has gone up considerably, with Michel getting an average of 21.3 carries per game in the past four outings.
"He's always been a very well-grounded person, a very mature guy, hard worker, all those kind of things," Richt said. "But the one thing I think that's maybe a little bit different is just the physical nature of being the lead back and not only being the lead back, but continuing to run what we run, which is a physical inside run.
"He's running a lot more reps, but he's probably hammering it inside a little bit more than he would have been if Chubb was around. And I think he's taken to it pretty darn good."
Last week, Michel weaved his way through the Kentucky defense for a career-high 165 yards on 24 carries. After the Tennessee loss, he was fighting back tears, blaming himself for fumbling a kickoff return near the end of the first half. He's someone the other Georgia players have taken to, even when he wasn't at the top of the depth chart.
"I feel like Sony has always been a vocal guy, an influential guy," Rome said. "Not just by what he says, but by the way he plays. When he stepped into the lead role, nothing changed. He's always had that character about him."