After a pursuit that began years ago and included birthday serenades by Mark Richt and a late push by the Clemson Tigers, Raleigh, N.C. (Millbrook High) tailback Keith Marshall has verbally commited to play his college football in the Classic City.
We talked about Marshall in this space some 10 months ago, calling him the Bulldogs' top tailback target. That wasn't because we here at Dawg Sports are terribly prescient. Rather, it was pretty obvious to recruiting observers from day one. Marshall is a nationally-ranked sprinter on the track, a 4.0+ GPA student in the classroom, and a phenom on the football field. In short, there's been very little reason to believe that he wouldn't succeed as a collegian. Rivals' #1 rated all-purpose back has only become more of a priority with Washaun Ealey and Caleb King leaving the program permanently, Boo Malcome leaving for a day or so, Carlton Thomas on double-secret probation, and Brandon Harton representing the Lollipop Guild.
An air of intrigue was added to the proceedings earlier today with word that Georgia had offered Stephenson tailback and former Florida commitment Mike Davis. I doubt that move had anything to do with Marshall. If anything, the Davis offer likely has more to do with either the status of one or more of the current (un)stable of Bulldog backs or Tarrboro, N.C. tailback Todd Gurley. Perhaps the coaches suspect that one of the guys on campus will be leaving. Perhaps Gurley is leaning toward another school and the coaches recognize that they need two tailbacks in this class. Or Perhaps they are trying to get a feel for their options at tailback and told Davis and Gurley they'd take the first one of the two to commit. I suspect the answer to this riddle will become apparent soon. For now, we just got a verbal commitment from the top tailback on our recruiting board. At the end of the day, MaconDawg's a happy guy.
Marshall, tabbed by 247Sports as the #12 player in the country for 2012 and the top overall available running back, will enroll in January, participate in offseason workouts and spring practice and is a near mortal lock to get a look in the backfield for 2012. He reminds me a little of Branden Smith in that he's so fast you at least want him on the field on special teams (another area in which, Heaven help us, we need immediate assistance).
I'll have a more indepth TMI post on Marshall in the coming days. For now, let's just say that I'm very pleased that he's chosen to come to Athens. Welcome to Bulldog Nation, Keith! Until later . . .
P.S. Coach Richt and crew may not be done on the recruiting front today. At 9 p.m. eastern tonight JUCO tight end Blake Jackson is expected to make his decision from among the Bulldogs, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Arkansas. While it's not a sure thing by any means, I would think that a Bulldog commitment for the Augusta native might be a sign of the direction that Jackson believes Orson Charles is leaning vis-a-vis his football future, as the two are similar players, and Jackson has mentioned that early playing time would be a big factor for him.