University of Georgia

Managing the depth at running back a ‘privilege’ for Mark Richt

ATHENS -- There’s no question sophomore Nick Chubb will be the centerpiece of Georgia’s offense.

Just don’t expect him to be an old-school bell cow toting the ball 25 or 30 times per game.

Of all positions on the 2015 roster, Georgia is the deepest at running back. The same was the case last year, which was why Chubb, who opened the year fourth on the depth chart, was able to run for 1,547 yards and 14 touchdowns.

With Todd Gurley, Sony Michel and Keith Marshall all missing multiple games due to injuries, as well as a four-game suspension to Gurley, Chubb was asked to carry the load in a couple of games.

And he delivered.

Chubb totaled at least 30 carries in a game three times last season, something Georgia head coach Mark Richt wants to avoid this year.

“Not until he really had to start carrying the load did I realize how much stamina he could have in a game, in an SEC game, at times carrying it 25, 35 times in a game,” Richt said. “That’s pretty impressive. And that’s not our goal for our back. I don’t want a guy to carry 35 times a game his whole career all season long. We want to share the load, but we had some issues with injuries and all.

“So there wasn’t a lot of depth at that position (after injuries to other players). So he probably carried it more last year in certain games than he probably will this year.”

In 2014, the Bulldogs averaged 42.7 carries per game, and that trend could continue considering the new faces that will be on the field at quarterback and receiver. Plus, the offensive line, which helped pave the way for the nation’s 12th-best rushing attack at 257.8 yards, returns four starters.

Marshall was considered one of the nation’s top running back recruits in 2012 and shared the load with Gurley as a freshman, running for 759 yards and eight touchdowns. After two consecutive injury-ridden years, Richt said Marshall appears healthy while trimming his weight to improve his on-field speed.

“(Marshall’s) moving very well. He’s decided to cut his weight down to closer to where he was earlier in his career,” Richt said. “You show up as a freshman, about 210 pounds, and then you just get in the weight room, and you eat. You get the nutrition and training table, and before you know it, you weigh 225, 230 and still look like dynamite. But I think he feels more comfortable carrying a little less weight to help his quickness and speed.

“He’s been a speed guy from the very beginning, so that will help him. But I think he’s in great shape, great spirits, and he’s been a guy that we’re going to count on. He’s been a guy we have counted on, and we expect to see a bunch from him.”

Michel, who arrived at Georgia with Chubb in the class of 2014, should also receive plenty of touches. While it came against an overmatched Troy team, Michel displayed his potential with 155 yards on only 10 carries in a 66-0 victory.

With Chubb, Marshall and Michel, along with junior Brendan Douglas and sophomore A.J. Turman, Georgia has a ton of backs to roll with each Saturday.

With this kind of depth, Richt doesn’t imagine divvying up the carries being much of a problem.

“It’s a privilege. It’s a blessing to have playmakers, and the goal is to keep people fresh, keep them healthy, find what guys can do well and get them in position to do it,” Richt said. “But, again, it takes everybody doing their job for anybody to have success.”