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.
‚ÄúIt has changed,‚Äù Bobo said, talking with reporters just weeks away from the start of preseason practices. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm not going to go into what happened with Isaiah. We wish him the best. We‚Äôve obviously gotta move on. There‚Äôs some opportunities for some young backs to step up.‚Äù
Particularly freshmen Keith Marshall, who enrolled early and practiced this spring, and Todd Gurley ‚Äî 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 when he arrived from Columbus.
‚ÄúWe 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‚Äôs going to be a bigger opportunity to play for Marshall and Gurley,‚Äù Bobo said.
After two suspensions and his early morning arrest on June 29 on felony weapons charges, Crowell was booted from the team. Crowell, who was named Southeastern Conference‚Äôs Freshman of the Year by The Associated Press, has enrolled at Alabama State, where he is expected to play this season.
With Crowell gone, plans for fifth-year senior Richard Samuel to play mostly fullback have been shelved.
Bobo confirmed that 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‚Äôs No. 1 tailback?
‚ÄúThat‚Äôs still to be seen,‚Äù Bobo said Malcome, who rushed for 174 yards in six games. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs in a good place now with his attitude. I saw him the other day. He seems confident. Still, we‚Äôve got to prove it on the field. I‚Äôm pleased with where he‚Äôs at and where he‚Äôs at mentally with his attitude and how he looks. I‚Äôm excited about him.‚Äù
Georgia was also excited when it signed Marshall and Gurley, who will be thrown into the fire fast given the lack of options at the position.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve got what we‚Äôve got and we‚Äôve got to find a way to get them on the field and let them be successful,‚Äù Bobo said. ‚ÄúLearning terminology, blocking schemes, (pass protection) is always the biggest concern. Not necessarily knowing who you got, but how to block them, how to go about attacking angles.‚Äù
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.
‚ÄúRichard is, ‚ÄòI‚Äôm going to do what‚Äôs best for the football team,‚Äô‚Äù Bobo said. ‚ÄúI know after the spring game he was running the ball and had some success running and he was like, ‚ÄòDon‚Äôt forget about me at tailback.‚Äô He was punishing people and getting yards tough at the end of the game. He has a role for that. Richard‚Äôs whole thing is he‚Äôs had some nagging injuries his whole time. He‚Äôs got to stay healthy. If he stays healthy, he can be productive for us. He‚Äôs a senior and he knows we‚Äôre counting on him in this offense in his leadership role.‚Äù
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.
‚ÄúIt says 216 here, but I saw him the other day; he‚Äôs 230 pounds,‚Äù Bobo said referring to Georgia‚Äôs depth chart. ‚ÄúHands down, he had one of the most productive springs offensively. Just did a great job.‚Äù
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.
‚ÄúI really like the way Quayvon Hicks looks,‚Äù Bobo said. ‚ÄúObviously I haven‚Äôt had a chance to get on the field with him yet, but I saw him in the locker room yesterday. He‚Äôs like 270 pounds. Just a solid rock. Hopefully he can pick it up and he‚Äôs a physical guy and he can help us out at that position.‚Äù