According to numerous reports, Keith Marshall, the Bulldogs' second-leading rusher as a true freshman in 2012, pulled a hamstring while running the 60 meters for the Georgia track team on February 9. This, of course, means that Georgia is left with only one scholarship tailback going into spring practice this weekend: 2012's leading rusher, Todd Gurley. While I commend Marshall for being a well-rounded athlete and proudly representing his school on more than one field of play, this is less than ideal news for the Georgia football team, which is now dangerously thin at the position.
The good news is that the injury will only sideline Marshall until mid-to-late March and we will likely see him compete in the G-Day game on April 6.
Despite losing prized tailback commit Derrick Henry to Alabama in the recruiting process and watching as prime target Alvin Kamara committed to the same school (seriously, are they assembling a tailback collage over there or something?), Georgia was able to sign two tailbacks in the 2013 class: A.J. Turman of Orlando, Fla., and Brendan Douglas of Augusta. That's the good news. The bad news is that these guys won't be on campus until summer and Gurley is still the only tailback we have going into spring practice.
Now, don't get me wrong. Todd Gurley is a phenomenal player, arguably the best back in the SEC with Eddie Lacy heading for the NFL. But Gurley cannot carry the load by himself in spring practice until the second half of Gurshall returns from his injury.
Thankfully, Georgia was able to sign an impressive crop of talented athletes in the 2013 class, some of whom enrolled early. One of these early enrollees is former Camden County star J.J. Green. Mr. Sanchez provides great analysis of Green and his skills here. Green, slated for cornerback at Georgia, played a bit of tailback in high school and racked up some decent numbers, rushing for 919 yards his senior year. As of right now, it looks as though Green will line up at tailback this spring and will have to put his plans with the defense on hold.
The problem with Green focusing his efforts on offense this spring is that Georgia is also not ideally deep in the secondary as all but one late-season starter from the 2012 will be taking their talents to the NFL. However, the depth at cornerback seems like a high-dive pool compared to the kiddy pool that is the tailback position.
Having a versatile and open-minded player like Green on the roster is a blessing for Georgia, but I just hope this does not significantly slow his development in the secondary, provided that is where he will eventually land.
So it looks like Green will carry some of Marshall's load this spring, regardless of where he ends up on a long-term basis. Turman and Douglas will join Gurshall this summer, leaving Georgia four-deep in the backfield, but the Bulldogs are one injury away from being in quite the pickle as we cannot always expect a true freshman to excel the way numbers 3 (Gurley) and 4 (Marshall) did in 2012.
Keeping Green at tailback is certainly an option. Tramel Terry, projected to play wide receiver, is another one (more from Mr. Sanchez on Terry here). Terry racked up 1,560 rushing yards (and 2,245 receiving yards) at Goose Creek (SC) High School. Even though Georgia lost Tavarres King and Marlon Brown, plenty of talent returns at receiver and the position would be less impacted if the coaches decided to play Terry at tailback. Well, Terry is still recovering from an ACL injury suffered during a high school all-star game in South Carolina so don't expect to see him till the season-opener, at the very earliest.
Marshall missing the first half of spring practice might not have too much of a negative impact on his continuing development as a star in the Bulldog backfield, but it sure does have a negative impact on the position as a whole as the Dawgs begin preparations for a 2013 campaign for which, as per usual, expectations are very high in Bulldog Nation. I prefer to view the situation as a temporary setback as there is ample help on the way, but it's never fun to have only one player at any position entering the first day of practice. Unlike the Josh Harvey-Clemons dilemma, this is a bad problem to have.
With the potential early departure of at least one half of Gurshall after the 2014 season, the tailback position should be atop the coaches' wish list for the 2014 recruiting class. Until then, join me in wishing Keith Marshall a speedy and full recovery and in knocking on the biggest piece of wood you can find that Todd Gurley stays healthy this spring.