ATHENS, Ga. — Speaking two weeks after Georgia showed its leading rusher the door, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo was looking forward, not back, on Friday as he discussed his tailback group minus Isaiah Crowell.
“It has changed,” Bobo said. “I’m not going to go into what happened with Isaiah. We wish him the best. We’ve obviously gotta move on. There’s some opportunities for some young backs to step up.”
Particularly freshmen Keith Marshall, who enrolled early and practiced this spring, and Todd Gurley – both rated as top 100 players nationally out of North Carolina. They will be counted on heavily from the get-go just like Crowell was a year ago.
“We knew we needed some depth when we recruited those two guys and told them there was going to be an opportunity to play, and now there’s going to be a bigger opportunity to play for Marshall and Gurley,” Bobo said.
After two suspensions and his June 29 arrest on felony weapons charges, Crowell, who was named Southeastern Conference’s Freshman of the Year by The Associated Press, was booted from the team.
With Crowell gone, plans for fifth-year senior Richard Samuel to play mostly fullback have been shelved.
Bobo said Samuel is primarily a tailback again, giving the Bulldogs a veteran at a position where its top player on the depth chart is sophomore Ken Malcome, who briefly quit the team last season.
Is Malcome ready to be Georgia’s No. 1 tailback?
“That’s still to be seen,” Bobo said of Malcome. “He’s in a good place now with his attitude. I saw him the other day. He seems confident. Still, we’ve got to prove it on the field.”
Marshall and Gurley will be thrown into the fire fast given the lack of options.
“We’ve got what we’ve got and we’ve got to find a way to get them on the field and let them be successful,” Bobo said. “Learning terminology, blocking schemes, pass pro is always the biggest concern. Not necessarily knowing who you got, but how to block them, how to go about attacking angles.”
Samuel started his career at tailback, moved to linebacker after his sophomore season and then redshirted and returned to tailback last year. He worked at fullback this spring, but ran effectively late in the G-Day spring game.
“Richard is, ‘I’m going to do what’s best for the football team,’” Bobo said. “I know after the spring game he was running the ball and had some success running and he was like, ‘Don’t forget about me at tailback.’ He was punishing people and getting yards tough at the end of the game. He has a role for that. Richard’s whole thing is he’s had some nagging injuries his whole time. He’s got to stay healthy. If he stays healthy, he can be productive for us. He’s a senior and he knows we’re counting on him in this offense in his leadership role.”
Georgia will begin preseason practices on Aug. 2 with walk-on Merritt Hall as the No. 1 fullback.
Bobo called him the biggest surprise of the spring. The Wesleyan product who played scout team linebacker is listed at 5-foot-11 and 216 pounds.
“It says 216 here, but I saw him the other day; he’s 230 pounds,” Bobo said referring to Georgia’s depth chart. “Hands down, he had one of the most productive springs offensively. Just did a great job.”
Bobo said coaches feel good about sophomore Zander Ogletree as well and 6-foot-2 freshman Quayvon Hicks from Pierce County will push for playing time.
“I really like the way Quayvon Hicks looks,” Bobo said. “Obvioulsy I haven’t had a chance to get on the field with him yet, but I saw him in the locker room yesterday. He’s like 270 pounds. Just a solid rock. Hopefully he can pick it up and he’s a physical guy and he can help us out at that position.”