Sony Michel and Nick Chubb aren‚Äôt walking into a Georgia backfield that is lacking for playmakers.
The five-star tailback recruits will add more firepower to a position that already has star Todd Gurley, a preseason All-American, and Keith Marshall, who rushed for 709 yards two seasons ago before being lost to a torn ACL his sophomore season.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôll just have to play behind them, play with them and keep them going,‚Äù Chubb said Monday, the first time the freshmen were available for interviews this preseason. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre coming in to push them and making them better and they‚Äôre doing the same for us.‚Äù
Gurley and Marshall quickly became ‚ÄúGurshall,‚Äù a name that fell out of favor after their freshman seasons when they combined to rush for 2,144 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2012 when the Bulldogs other tailbacks were Ken Malcome and Richard Samuel.
Barring injury, Michel and Chubb shouldn‚Äôt come close to touching those type of numbers but they are already drawing comparisons.
‚ÄúThey honestly kind of remind me of Keith and Todd when they first got here,‚Äù quarterback Hutson Mason said. ‚ÄúTodd was a little bigger, a little more physical. Keith was more an in-space type of juke guy where you can use him a little bit more in different ways than Todd. They complement each other real nice and they also complement Todd and Keith so there‚Äôs a lot of depth.‚Äù
The 5-foot-10, 228-pound Chubb is more in the mold of Gurley. The 5-foot-11 208-pound Michel is closer to Marshall.
‚ÄúChubb‚Äôs a real hard downhill runner,‚Äù Mason said. ‚ÄúSony‚Äôs a little bit different, a little more versatile, has great balance. We plan on using him in some different ways this year.‚Äù
Chubb is from Cedartown High School where he rushed for 2,690 yards as a senior. Michel starred at American Heritage in Plantation, Fla., where he racked up 1,833 yards last season.
Michel is a threat in the passing game. Chubb said he didn‚Äôt catch a single pass as a senior.
‚ÄúThat‚Äôs the biggest thing I‚Äôve got to work on,‚Äù Chubb said.
Chubb was Georgia‚Äôs top rusher with 52 yards on seven carries in the first preseason scrimmage on Saturday, but said he ‚Äúput the ball on the ground,‚Äù something he called disappointing.
Still, he said ‚ÄúI gained a lot of confidence. I wanted to see how I did in a fast-pace and in a real game instead of coach (Bryan) McClendon telling me what to do.‚Äù
Michel, who had 21 yards on five carries, called his scrimmage ‚ÄúOK. We still had some mistakes,‚Äù
citing fundamentals, assignments and technique.
‚ÄúWhen we were in the film room, coach capitalized on those things,‚Äù Michel said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôve still got a lot to learn from it.‚Äù
Chubb said blocking assignments remain a bugaboo for the pair.
They should at the least have a chance to make an early impact on special teams.
Chubb said he‚Äôs working on all special teams and thinks he could have a chance to play on the punt coverage team.
He certainly isn‚Äôt someone that you want to run into on the field and he has a reputation for what he can do in the weight room. He said teammates were impressed when he benched 350 pounds three times.
‚ÄúTackle-breaking is a big part of his game,‚Äù coach Mark Richt said. ‚ÄúSometimes when you do drills where you don‚Äôt have to tackle a guy to the ground, you thud a guy and you‚Äôre like ‚ÄòOK, he‚Äôs down.‚Äô He‚Äôs going to get yards after contact. When you start tackling for real, are you really getting him on the ground or not? He‚Äôs a pretty physical guy.‚Äù
Michel writes rap music and came up with a ‚ÄúUGA Anthem,‚Äù but says his focus now is football.
While Gurley and Marshall became friends from running track in North Carolina, Chubb and Michel didn‚Äôt meet before playing in the U.S. Army All-American game in Texas last winter.
They are roommates during camp at the Georgia Center and have become close.
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs a chill dude,‚Äù Chubb said. ‚ÄúHe just lays there. We barely talk. When we talk, we‚Äôre like laughing and joking around.‚Äù
Said Michel: ‚ÄúSince we‚Äôre in camp all day long, we just try to enjoy ourselves away from football.‚Äù
For the record, Chubb says ‚ÄúI‚Äôm the snorer.‚Äù
On the practice field, both are showing a knack for being hard to bring down when it counts the most.
‚ÄúThey are finishing plays in the end zone a lot of the time,‚Äù quarterback Faton Bauta said.‚ÄùThey are showing those guys have a passion and a fire for playing. Those guys are competing hard against each other. They‚Äôre benefitting each other.‚Äù
The pace of practices in preseason camp can get to a freshman.
‚ÄúThe body getting tired a little bit, just something I‚Äôm not used to from high school,‚Äù Michel said. ‚ÄúHigh school you get little breaks but this is a full grind.‚Äù
For now, they are behind not only Gurley and Marshall but sophomore Brendan Douglas in the tailback practice pecking order.
‚ÄúWe have a lot of talented running backs, but I feel like we‚Äôre all just a good group,‚Äù Michel said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre not really selfish. We‚Äôre all just here together and trying to get better.‚Äù