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Assume the Position: Running Backs

There is real reason for optimism heading into the spring practice period and beyond. Sony Michel will be back after a season where the weight of an entire offense rested on his shoulders. Brendan Douglas returns and some young guys will have to get a look. Of course, all eyes will be on the recovery and return of Nick Chubb to the rotation. He's number 27 in your program, number one in your heart.

Two of the Best in the Business: Nick and Sony
Two of the Best in the Business: Nick and Sony
Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

October 10, 2015.  Knoxville, Tennessee.  First play from scrimmage and you just knew. We all saw Nick Chubb's cleats get caught up along the sideline of that...that... field.  Or whatever they call it.  I call it bog with some stripes drawn on it.  We all saw the subsequent pain in his face.  In that instant, I let out an audible gasp that did not go unnoticed by my wife - as if I had blown out my ACL/PCL/MCL/ whatever CL it was.  I'm sure your reaction was similar.  I hope to never speak of it after I finish writing this piece tonight; once I hit the "publish" button in the morning.

"What's wrong!?" She said.

"Honey, I think Nick Chubb might never play football again...(my honest gut reaction)", tears already welling up.  The first play of the game, and I really wanted to just turn of the TV.  Nothing really mattered after that except the well-being of Nick Chubb.  We lost.  Big deal.  That was as hard a thing to witness as anything I have ever seen.

Is the sod up there really to blame?  In 2013, I figured it was, but also thought just more "bad luck" in a season filled with the stuff.  On October 10, all doubt was removed.  Just another reason to never, ever wear orange.

Flash forward to the present and I almost feel guilty that I even thought for a second that Nick Chubb's (Jr., 5' 10", 220 - Cedartown) career might've ended.  I suppose the "clean tear" that was repairable and the wonderful skill of surgeons and rehab staff has something to do with how quickly our guy comes back.  All the way back.  But by everyone's account, Nick Chubb has taken to his recovery as if on a mission, rendering it merely a bump in the road.  For mere mortals like you and me, perhaps it was career ending.  Probably Chuck Norris, too.  Not Nick Chubb.  He'll be back.

Chubb had gained 747 yards in 5 games prior to Knoxville, for an average of 8.1 yards per carry.  The "official" stat line is for 6 games, but a single carry does not a game make.

His long touchdown was the lone highlight vs. Alabama (well, NCT's bottle of rocket fuel prior to kickoff was another kind of highlight because it helped make a miserable day bearable...).  He was on track for at least another 1500 yard season.

Enough with the history.  We have all read the reports coming from the training room.  The coaches probably already know if Nick will play in the season opener against North Carolina but will not tip their hat.  Just keep praying for Nick, and keep doing what you do, with the comfort of knowing that you might never have to travel to and play in Neyland Stadium again.

Thank God for Sony Michel

Sony's game winner vs. Georgia Southern - Getty Images

Sony Michel (JR 5' 11' 211) played his high school football at American Heritage in Plantation, Florida.  It's about 7 miles as the crow flies from my driveway.  This school is producing some serious talent and more is in the pipeline.  Last season, the burden for most of the season was placed upon his strong shoulders and he responded, with 1136 yards on 218 carries, for a 5.1 average per pop.  He added another 244 yards receiving with a total of 1406 yards from scrimmage; 8 rushing touchdowns, 3 receiving.

We know what we have in this guy, and the thought of having both Sony and Nick in the rotation has got to be cool comfort for Jim Chaney and Co. as they either play the veteran QB or break in the newbie.

Sony proved he is a stand-alone back and can play for anyone - college or on the next level.  However, he the perfect compliment to Nick Chubb as a change-of-pace back with every bit of the physicality and an outstanding receiver.  Both Chubb and Michel are blessed with so many intangibles - great hands included.

Brendan Douglas - Underestimated Value

A senior in 2016, Brendan Douglas (5' 11', 215 - Augusta, GA - Aquinas) returns for one more crack at knocking over a Gamecock or Gator.  At times the subject of derision, he's only guilty of having his number called to run into a pile any number of times on 3rd down and long.  Not his fault.  Douglas has skills.  He's strong, has deceptive speed and is unselfish.  I often thought he should be utilized as a full back from time to time, although we've been deep at this position.  He's a personal favorite and is a Damned Good Dawg.

Brendan Douglas - Getty Images

Sr. Full Back Brendan Douglas - Getty Images

Tae Crowder (6' 3", 220 Hamilton, GA - Harris Co.) played some on special teams last season and is listed at running back.  He played well at times and should get a good look at G-Day - unless the coaches feel his talents might be better utilized elsewhere.  He's a versatile athlete and will only get better no matter where he ends up.

The destiny of A.J. Turman (6', 210 - Orlando - Boone H.S.) continues to, well, mystify.  If he was even close to playing last season one certainly would have thought he'd make his debut, but in reality there were few opportunities to share the carries because of our inability to get any breathing room against anyone for most of the season.

UPDATE:  By now you have heard that Turman is no longer on the team and has been granted a release.  Prior to the March 19th scrimmage held at Sanford Stadium, Kirby Smart addressed the rumors that Turman was prohibited to transfer to the University of Miami and shot down the notion that he was not allowed to transfer to Florida.  Seth Emerson of the AJC does a fine recap here.

So, sounds like Turman left despite the fact that Smart and Co. wanted him to reconsider.  Good luck to the kid.  Hope he stays healthy and can find a spot on someone's roster where he can contribute.

A redshirt Sophomore, Turman is yet to see the field.  His entire freshman season was derailed because of a toe injury, but he healed up and acquitted himself very in last season's G-Day game and looked like a tough runner with some good speed.  Perhaps he just never got a chance because of the obvious dysfunction that defined 2015 in so many areas.  Maybe he's just not SEC caliber.  Perhaps he's hurt, but I have not heard any real good explanation anywhere.  I hope he gets a chance  We'll see.

Georgia only signed a single running back in 2016:  Elijah Holyfield (5' 10", 2015 - Woodward Academy, Atlanta).  He'll be enrolled in the fall and will have a chance to impress new running backs coach Dell McGee.

Fullbacks.  We love 'em.  We need 'em.  Can't live without 'em, No!

Christian Payne (Jr. 6' 1", 233 - Prince Avenue Christian, Athens) is the incumbent at this position that is so critical in the pro-style offense that Jim Chaney will employ.  However, with the possibility of seeing more 2-tight end sets, the role of the true fullback might take a little hit.  However, Payne is a very good blocker and did well in 2015.

Glenn Welch (Sr, 6' 2", 249 - Wayne Co.) is a big kid with game experience and will rotate with Payne.

Nick Moore (Jr, 6' 3", 245 - Brookwood) has good size and should get some reps on G-Day.

Georgia might still have the best running back corps in the nation.  Sony Michel could start for anyone.  But there are questions that need answers and if last year taught us anything, it is this:  You can never, ever have enough running backs.  I suspect Elijah Holyfield will be prepped to play once August rolls around.  Maybe Tae Crowder will get some looks as well.  Hopefully, A.J. Turman will get his chance, but his status and role remains an enigma.

When Nick Chubb returns, will he be the same player that we saw going into the game on October 10, 2015?  Will he be hesitant?  Could there be lingering, inhibiting effects from his surgery?  Will he be brought along gradually?  If he cannot play early in the season, who will be the #2 guy behind Sony Michel?

G-Day is very important to evaluate some kids at this position.  If Sony Michel plays more than a series, I'll be shocked.  In fact,  just roll him up in bubble wrap until September 3.

As Always, GO DAWGS!