It‚Äôs not like Bryan McClendon has worked with the likes of Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams or Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson since he became Georgia‚Äôs running backs coach in 2009.
Still with a little more than a month to go until preseason practice, McClendon puts his current group of tailbacks ahead of the others he‚Äôs had with the Bulldogs.
‚ÄúI think we‚Äôre very talented,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúProbably as far as pure talent-base, probably the most talented that I‚Äôve had in my room ever.‚Äù
Washaun Ealey and Caleb King were McClendon‚Äôs top rushers in 2009 and 2010. Isaiah Crowell and Carlton Thomas led the way in 2011 in a season that included more than its share of off-field issues for the unit.
Crowell and Ken Malcome will be joined by freshmen Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley at the position this preseason. Entering their sophomore seasons, Crowell and Malcome are bracketed as co-No. 1s on the depth chart now.
‚ÄúI will say, if we were playing tomorrow, those two would probably get the best crack of getting an early-down deal,‚Äù McClendon said. ‚ÄúThe bottom line is, all four of those guys have got to compete. That‚Äôs what we brought those two guys in for. We didn‚Äôt bring anybody in to redshirt, to be honest with you. We brought those guys in here to get ready and compete and then the best guys are going to play.‚Äù
Behind an offensive line that lost three starters, Georgia‚Äôs tailbacks didn‚Äôt exactly tear it up this spring.
The development of that line figures to be critical for the Bulldogs‚Äô running game this fall.
‚ÄúI think we‚Äôve got some talented backs,‚Äù Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said on Atlanta‚Äôs 680 The Fan this week. ‚ÄúIf we can just get them going, they‚Äôre going to be able to do some damage.‚Äù
Fullback/tailback Richard Samuel also is in the mix.
‚ÄúI think we have enough competition now that we‚Äôre going to find one, two, three, four or however many,‚Äù coach Mark Richt said last week.
Marshall and Gurley were the top two running back recruits in North Carolina.
Marshall made the Athletic Director‚Äôs Honor Roll in his first semester on campus. He was in the mix this spring before a pulled hamstring sidelined him for the second half of the practices.
‚ÄúHe does everything exceptionally well that we ask him to do,‚Äù McClendon said. ‚ÄúObviously the biggest thing with coaching young backs that I‚Äôve come to realize is all young backs have to learn how to play and play well without the ball. Those running skills, those transfer over quicker than some of those other skills.‚Äù
Gurley, who graduated this month from Tarboro High School, has gone out to eat a couple of times with McClendon since he‚Äôs been on campus.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm just making sure that I‚Äôm staying in his ear,‚Äù McClendon said. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs around a bunch of good guys. His room is a very good room, a very positive room, so it will be good.‚Äù
Samuel will do ‚Äúsome double duty for us at fullback and tailback,‚Äù McClendon said.
The fifth-year senior brings some much-needed experience to the position.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs only four guys after Richard Samuel and I went through four guys last year,‚Äù said McClendon, who was forced to rely on former walk-on Brandon Harton against New Mexico State and Kentucky. ‚ÄúYou definitely have got to make sure that he‚Äôs abreast of everything that you‚Äôre doing and any new stuff that you may be implementing or putting in or new ways that you‚Äôre going to do stuff. He has to be clued in and be good at that stuff, too.‚Äù