ATHENS – When it looks at its suddenly-depleted running back and receivers, the Georgia football team can take comfort that it’s only spring practice.
Junior tailback Keith Marshall is out with a hamstring, head coach Mark Richt confirmed Saturday, and no firm timetable exists for his return.
“We just don’t know,” Richt said. “Some (hamstring injuries) are worse than others.”
Tailback Sony Michel is probably out for the rest of the spring with a shoulder injury, taking away two of the team’s top three at the position.
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Not surprisingly, the team elected to take it easy with starter Nick Chubb in Saturday’s scrimmage, using him only on third downs. Richt said that was in order to focus on his pass protection and route running. Chubb’s running ability, obviously, is well-known.
That opened up a chance for A.J. Turman, who has yet to play his first two seasons on campus because of injuries. Turman had a team-leading 87 yards on 15 carries on Saturday.
But that’s a bit misleading: Turman racked up his yardage mostly against the third-team, while Brendan Douglas (30 yards on 14 carries) was going against the first-team.
The team has also moved Quayvon Hicks, who has alternated between fullback and tight end, to tailback. Richt didn’t say whether Hicks would stay with the running backs, but he likes what he sees from him there. He only got reps with the tailbacks on Thursday, and ended up carrying a big load in the scrimmage.
“He’s got a natural ability to do that, and I think that he’s going to continue to learn that position,” Richt said.
Meanwhile, receiver Blake Tibbs will also miss the rest of spring practice with a shoulder injury. The team was already without Shakenneth Williams and Charlie Hegedus, two receivers who have hamstring injuries.
"We’re really hurting at receiver right now,” Richt said, adding that another receiver might have sprained his ankle on Saturday. He couldn’t remember who it was.
They’re down to eight receivers, which spread across three units isn’t much.
“We may have to enlist a defensive back or something, I don’t know, just to kind of get us through practice right now,” Richt said.
Isaiah Wynn received the first-team snaps at center, followed by Hunter Long. Brandon Kublanow, the starter at left guard, didn’t get any center snaps in the scrimmage but continues to be an option.
“Center is still a little bit of a mystery to us on exactly where to go with it,” Richt said. “I think if we work all three of those guys we’ll have an answer and we’ll have some depth.”
Defensive scrimmage notes
Statistically, inside linebacker Jake Ganus had the best day on Saturday, with 10 tackles, an interception and a sack. Ganus was working with the second-team defense, alongside fellow transfer Chuks Amaechi, who was credited with 5 tackles.
Tim Kimbrough and Reggie Carter were the inside linebackers for the first team, which went up against the first-team defense. That’s the cautionary note about Ganus’ stats. But obviously Ganus, the UAB transfer with one year of eligibility, continues to impress.
Two other players who had notable days were in the secondary: Jarvis Wilson, the freshman early enrollee, had five tackles, two pass break-ups and a tackle-for-loss. And cornerback Malkom Parrish had five tackles.
Parrish had what Richt called a “big-time pick,” grabbing a jump ball between himself and Malcolm Mitchell, and then winning a wrestling match on the ground for the ball.
“It was a really great play,” Richt said. “(Parrish) had another really great pass break-up as well.”
Richt was in a good mood after the scrimmage, perhaps because the offense had a better day than expected. By all accounts the first two weeks of spring practice were a bit rough, due to injuries and the transition to new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
There were two areas that Richt liked in particular on Saturday:
The receivers had a minimal amount of drops, after having so many early on this spring that Richt asked his quality-control staffers to go through film and add them up.
The offense in general had a “pretty clean game,” without many penalties and botched snaps.
“It wasn’t a dominating performance by any stretch. But there were a lot less of the self-inflicted wounds,” Richt said. “We looked more like an offensive unit today.”