Signs of the strides Ken Malcome has made on and off the field as a Georgia tailback can‚Äôt be found just on the depth chart, where he sat at No. 1 entering the preseason.
No, the better indicator may be how Malcome deals with things when they don‚Äôt go exactly how he would like.
‚ÄúIf I mess up and get yelled at, I don‚Äôt pout and just shut down,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúI just take it and run with it.‚Äù
Ken Malcome 2.0 for the Bulldogs may have started to take shape when he cut the cord in late September, leaving the program ever so briefly before asking coach Mark Richt the next day if he could rejoin the team.
‚ÄúI said, ‚ÄòYeah, you can come back, but I‚Äôd like to see the best Ken Malcome you can possibly be,‚Äù Richt said this offseason. ‚ÄúHe has turned it around in his attitude towards school, he has turned it around in his attitude towards practice.‚Äù
There have been bumps along the road.
Malcome was one of three running backs suspended for the New Mexico State game last November for reportedly failing a drug test, but he‚Äôs still here, unlike his friend Isaiah Crowell, who is now at Alabama State after being dismissed from Georgia after a felony weapons arrest in late June.
‚ÄúI talk to him every day,‚Äù Malcome said. ‚ÄúI talk to him all the time about just staying humble and just change for the better.‚Äù
Sort of like Malcome.
‚ÄúOh, man, it‚Äôs a complete 180,‚Äù running backs coach Bryan McClendon said. ‚ÄúNow, he did have some things that we had to work through off the field that I think definitely affected how well he was taking stuff. Once I helped him out in that regard, where he was able to focus fully on football, you saw him make leaps and bounds.‚Äù
McClendon said those issues for Malcome were back home in Scottdale in DeKalb County near Decatur.
‚ÄúA lot of people didn‚Äôt make it out of there,‚Äù said Malcome, raised by his grandparents, Sylvester and Beverly Malcome, and his mother. ‚ÄúWhen I go home, people look up to me and see me as someone who brings success back to the hometown. That‚Äôs why I do what I do.‚Äù
Malcome went from fifth-string at one point last year to leading Georgia in rushing in its final three games, including 51 yards on 12 carries in the Outback Bowl.
‚ÄúI think Ken grew up a lot last year,‚Äù offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. ‚ÄúI think he got his attitude right about what he had to do and how he approached every day and when that attitude got right his play started to improve.‚Äù
Said Malcome: ‚ÄúI‚Äôve been working hard, come from a lot of things growing up. I‚Äôm not going to let up at this point because at this point I really did nothing.‚Äù
Malcome rushed for 174 yards on 42 carries (4.1 average) in a season where the position‚Äôs off-the-field issues left Richt calling them a ‚Äúpain in the rear.‚Äù
There‚Äôs new blood at the position with freshmen Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley (who are drawing praise from coaches) and a veteran presence in fifth-year senior Richard Samuel (who is also working at fullback).
‚ÄúI think this year people will see Georgia get back to the running game,‚Äù Malcome said. ‚ÄúA lot of people say we fell off a little bit even though we lost Isaiah, but we‚Äôre full strength now.‚Äù
Malcome, a 6-foot, 224-pound redshirt sophomore, is moving forward. He was named the team‚Äôs most improved offensive player at the end of spring practice, and McClendon said after Sunday‚Äôs fourth preseason practice that ‚Äúhe‚Äôs been having a great first few practices. ‚Ä¶He‚Äôs been very steady, excelled at a lot of the stuff that we‚Äôve asked him to do so far.‚Äù
He may not dazzle like Gurley or Marshall, but that‚Äôs fine by him.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm going in and getting the dirty yards,‚Äù he said.
Early in practice on Sunday, the order of the tailbacks was Malcome, Marshall, Samuel and Gurley.
Richt calls the competition wide open.
‚ÄúI think all of them are stating a strong case,‚Äù McClendon said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs going to be interesting to see. It really is.‚Äù
All are getting work with the first and second team.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre all close,‚Äù Malcome said. ‚ÄúWe don‚Äôt look at it like we‚Äôre competing for the No. 1 job. We‚Äôre all just getting in and doing our job.‚Äù
Malcome is doing his job and the best, he says, is still to come.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs kind of hard to see that I‚Äôm the best Ken Malcome,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúThe best may come through the season.‚Äù