The passing of signing day, at least everywhere except a certain town in south Georgia, means it's time to take a look at where things stand with the Georgia football team. We're going position by position, and we started things with the quarterbacks.
Now it's time for the guys who line up behind the quarterbacks. That principally means tailback, where in case you didn't hear Georgia has had some talent in recent years. We will also delve into the fullbacks, as Georgia remains a pro-style offense and all indications are it will continue to employ the position at least in some capacity.
But we will start with ...
Returning players: Keith Marshall (R-Jr.); Brendan Douglas (Jr.); A.J. Turman (R-Soph.); Nick Chubb (Soph.); Sony Michel (Soph.).
Early enrollees: None.
On the way: Tae Crowder, Fr.
Early favorite: Chubb.
The skinny: Chubb seemed to have a pretty solid freshman season. First-team All-SEC, one of the five best rushing seasons in Georgia history, SEC freshman of the year eh, something to build on at least.
The intrigue is obviously elsewhere on the depth chart, and it’s important to see how that shakes out. For all that the team rode Chubb (and Gurley when healthy and eligible), this program’s philosophy still appears geared towards using multiple backs in each game. Plus, recent history shows you have to be ready to replace the top guy if he goes down. If that happens to Chubb, the Bulldogs are likely in good shape, just as they were when Gurley went down last year.
If Michel had remained healthy, he likely would have seriously cut into Chubb’s production. The two freshmen were sort of playing off each other – Chubb the inside guy, Michel the outside guy – until Michel’s shoulder injury early in the season. When he returned later in the season he only showed flashes, but given that his injury wasn’t to the lower body, there’s little reason to expect he’s lost any of his explosiveness.
Marshall’s question is about his legs. The reports were good during bowl practice, and there’s every reason to believe them. But the question is how good Marshall will be when the real games arrive, and how confident he’ll be as a runner. And then once he has confidence, will his vision – the ability to see the hole and hit it – be the same as when he was a freshman? On some level, little of that can be determined until the season actually started. But spring scrimmages and G-Day could help.
Don’t forget about Douglas, by the way. It may sound like an insult to call him serviceable, but it’s not. He has good straight-ahead ability that can be valuable in a pinch, especially if the offensive line is as strong as it was last season.
Crowder at this point is depth. But so was Douglas two years ago. So you never know.
And what about Turman? Well, he took a redshirt in 2013 and then missed basically all of last year after toe surgery. He finally started to get some snaps during bowl practice, but still had to head to the training room for big chunks of practice. This spring will be key for him. He's got good size, the question is how much the time off has effected him, both physically and mentally.
Returning players: Quayvon Hicks (Sr.); Detric Bing-Dukes (R-Fr.); Christian Payne (Soph., walk-on); Dominic Bryan (Jr., walk-on); Cameron Faulkner (Jr., walk-on); Matthew Fox (Soph., walk-on).
Early enrollees: None.
On the way: None.
Early favorite: Hicks.
The skinny: The experiment of Hicks at tight end didn’t quite take off last year, in large part because Jeb Blazevich proved to be so good. Nothing’s changed at tight end, so even though Brian Schottenheimer hasn’t been asked about it yet, the guess here is Hicks will remain principally at fullback. But the H-back spot is more a staple of the NFL game than in college, so it’s also a good guess that Hicks will continue to see some snaps at that spot.
Hicks, entering his senior year, really is an intriguing blend of size and ability who has yet to be featured much, basically because of the rest of the talent on offense. It will be interesting to see whether Schottenheimer decides to use him more.
Bing-Dukes is sort of a forgotten man, and his position status needs some clarification. He came to campus as an inside linebacker then moved to fullback last year, though never played, so he preserved the redshirt. Whether he’ll go back to defense or stay at fullback either hasn’t been decided or just hasn’t been announced.
The rest of the fullback crew is the usual collection of bullish walk-ons who almost always have someone plucked to play a key role. Merritt Hall and Taylor Maxey are the two more recent. If Bing-Dukes does go back to defense, then someone from this group will see the field a bit next season. Payne and Bryan were getting a lot of reps last season, so they could be the next in line.
Next up: Receivers and tight ends.