ATHENS, Ga. — Before spraining his knee and earning a few weeks off, Brendan Douglas was the biggest buzz coming out of Georgia’s preseason camp.
The 5-foot-11, 202-pound running back from Aquinas had coaches and teammates raving about his potential.
“Oh man, he’s just a workhorse,” fullback Quayvon Hicks said. “Never seen a kid that just runs so hard.”
“Oh yeah, that guy is a hard runner,” star tailback Todd Gurley said. “He’s a great player. .… He’s just going to go in there and run his hardest every play.”
“He can play,” tailback Keith Marshall said. “He’s very physical. He’s got a good low center of gravity so he has very good balance. He’s fast. I think he’ll be a very good football player.”
Then came perhaps the most enthusiastic gush of all – and a new nickname – from Georgia senior quarterback Aaron Murray.
“He’s a little ball of muscle is what he is,” Murray said. “He’s just shredded. He looks like Thor. That dude’s ripped.”
Thor was one that Douglas hadn’t heard yet.
“Every time I hear a superhero’s name I turn around because I think they’re talking about me,” Douglas said without a hint of conceit. “They’ve got a couple nicknames for me – the White Adrian Peterson; the White Hope.”
Well, not that it should matter, but Douglas happens to be a white tailback in a sport that has increasingly fewer of them at the higher levels. In a way, that made his performance
more noticeable to his peers.
“I’ve kind of had to prove myself a little bit more I think,” Douglas admitted. “A lot of people probably didn’t believe in me because I was white. But I’m just trying to show what I can do.”
WHATEVER DOUBTS anyone had melted away after the first Bulldogs night scrimmage in Sanford Stadium. Facing the first-team defense, Douglas led all rushers with 50 yards on seven carries. But the highlight was when he hurdled cornerback Shaq Wiggins.
“I was running on the offensive side of the field,” Douglas said. “Apparently they had been talking a little trash to Shaq the play before that and so it was the perfect timing, I think. He tried to go low on me and I knew it was coming and went ahead and jumped over him.”
Said Murray: “It was crazy. The whole offensive sideline ran on the field and went berserk.”
All of Douglas’ preseason efforts had him in tight competition with fellow freshman J.J. Green for the third tailback spot on the depth chart behind Gurley and Marshall until he suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee less than two weeks before the season opener against Clemson. The UGA medical staff ruled out surgery. But Douglas is out of Saturday’s game and likely the home opener against South Carolina as well.
Bulldogs coach Mark Richt isn’t thinking about redshirting Douglas, however.
“I think we still would like to see him play,” Richt said.
The head coach is certainly impressed with his late recruiting acquisition – especially his pass-blocking instincts.
“He has good vision and good balance and runs with power,” Richt said. “He’s got good speed and he’s a very, very good pass protector considering he’s a true freshman, And those are the things we look for as a coach. He did enough things as far as knocking people back at the end of runs where he got the players’ attention as well.”
Blocking was not something he was asked to do a lot at Aquinas, where Douglas typically had the ball in his hands. But it’s come fairly natural to him.
“I’ve never really been taught the techniques of blocking and never knew there was so much to learn about it,” Douglas said. “But they’ve been teaching me a lot of stuff about that and I’m get a lot better at it.”
Murray certainly appreciates it.
“One of our best blocking running backs right now,” Murray said. “He’s not afraid to stick his nose in, I don’t care who it is, and knock them right under the chin.”
DOUGLAS WAS EXPECTED to sign with rush-oriented Georgia Tech until the Bulldogs expressed a strong interest the week before signing day. A lifelong Georgia fan considering his father, Pat, played two seasons for the Bulldogs as a walk-on before joining the start-up program at Georgia Southern, Brendan jumped at the chance to play in the Southeastern Conference.
His older brother, John, played fullback at Auburn before finishing at Georgia Southern.
“It’s kind of crazy to think about,” Douglas said of competing in college football’s best conference. “I didn’t even think I’d be here a week before signing day. Now that I’m here it’s great and I’m ready to roll.”
When he does return to practice and gets cleared to play, Douglas is eager to make an impact any way he can.
“I’m on a lot of special teams right now,” he said. “That’s a good way for me to get on the field and show the coaches that I can play. Then slowly try to get some reps at running back if the coaches feel I’m ready for that. It’s all up to them.”
His Georgia teammates can’t wait for him to return.
“He’s worked his tail off and definitely deserves some playing time,” Murray said.
Said Hicks: “He’s everything you could ever ask in a kid. He listens. He takes criticism very well. He asks questions. Out of all our running backs, he’s made a big impression with the way he runs the ball, the way he listens, the way he just shuts up and runs the ball. He’s going to be great this year.”
The question no longer is if Douglas can make it, but how soon.