June 29, 2012

Their time has come

So, how important do the additions of Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley look now to the eventual fortunes of the Georgia Bulldogs?

Following Friday afternoon's dismissal of sophomore running back Isaiah Crowell, there's no doubt head coach Mark Richt is thanking his proverbial lucky stars.

With Crowell now out of the picture following his arrest on three gun charges earlier in the day, the two freshmen from North Carolina, along with redshirt sophomore Ken Malcome - and perhaps senior Richard Samuel - figure to share the majority of the tailback snaps.

For Malcome (6-0, 226), the opportunity to start the opener against Buffalo would no doubt count as quite the turnaround.

After all, it was just last year that the former Southwest DeKalb standout quit the team for a day before he was later suspended for the game against New Mexico State - along with Crowell and former teammate Carlton Thomas - for allegedly failing a drug test.

But now, as the Bulldogs look ahead to 2012, Malcome - who rushed 42 times for 174 yards last season - finds himself in a position few thought he would ever see.

"I didn't want people to think of Ken Malcome as being a quitter," Malcome said back in the spring. "I don't want to leave Georgia without getting a name first."

He's about to get that chance.

But so too, it appears, are Marshall and Gurley, both of who will no be depended on to shoulder a key role come fall.

"Todd's a great player," Marshall said back in February. "He's a bigger guy than me, around 210. I may be faster, but he may be more of a between-the-tackle guy. I think we'll feed off each other."

But running backs coach Bryan McClendon says don't let Marshall fool you.

From what he's seen, the Raleigh, N.C. native has shown the knack for being an adept inside runner himself.

"I think you're going to see two guys who are very effective running between the tackles," McClendon said in the spring. "They both run with great pad level; they've got great instinct and vision. I think we got the two best out there."

Rivals.com recruiting analyst Mike Farrell agrees.

Farrell believes Georgia signed the 'best combo of running backs' in the entire country.

But McClendon disagrees with the notion that the speedy Marshall is a player whose best work will come running in space.

"When I evaluate players, I don't go by what somebody else thinks, I go by what I see," McClendon said. "When I went to see Keith, I saw this guy who had 25 runs and 21 were between the tackles. He ended up with almost 200 yards. That's what I saw. The thing is, you see guys, and people always judge those things of size. But what I've seen, he came in 199 pounds, which obviously is great with the speed and everything else he has. I think he's an every-down back who can do everything we're going to ask him to do."

During an April interview with UGASports, Gurley said he'll be ready as well.

"When I started my senior year I was probably about like (Marshall), around 200 pounds," said Gurley, who said in April he was up to 217. "But by the end of the year I was playing between 210 and 215."

Gurley will wear No. 3 for the Bulldogs come fall. He's also preparing himself for the changes that will be coming his way.

"For me, I think the biggest challenges are going to be the little stuff," he said. "There are things in high school you can't get away with in college, plus you've got to do everything at full speed and being able to come to practice every day knowing that you're having to compete for a spot."