The tailback who led Georgia in rushing in the final three games of last season looks like he will start the first game of the new season.
Georgia coach Mark Richt said after Wednesday’s third and final preseason scrimmage that he was “pretty sure” that Ken Malcome would start the Sept. 1 game in Sanford Stadium against Buffalo.
Freshman Todd Gurley from Tarboro, N.C., has been the top rusher in each scrimmage — he had 54 yards and a touchdown on six carries Wednesday — but Malcome was right behind him with 50 yards on six carries. Freshman Keith Marshall ran for 17 yards on three carries and caught a 23-yard touchdown pass. Richard Samuel went for 10 yards on three rushes.
Malcome, a redshirt sophomore who briefly quit the team last year, started two games last season, including the Outback Bowl.
He rushed for 174 yards on 42 carries during a season in which he was at one point the fifth-string.
“It’s a relief,” Malcome said of being the probable starter. “I came from the bottom. I tell a lot of people hard work matters. It gets you where you want to go. Don’t take it for granted. Because he said that, I’m not going to let up.”
Gurley has rushed for 199 yards and four touchdowns on 19 carries in the scrimmages. Malcome’s totals are 117 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
On Wednesday’s showing, Richt said: “Gurley ran well, but I thought they all really did run well.”
Richt said he hasn’t talked to the staff about the rest of the tailback pecking order.
“It’s just too early, but even when we do that, I doubt I’ll announce anything because I don’t even want the guys to know,” he said. “I just want them to keep fighting and keep competing. We’ll tell them the night before the game maybe.”
All of Georgia’s top four tailbacks have gotten first-team work.
“We’re not too much heavy on who’s going to start,” Malcome said. “We’re really heavy on a rotation.”
A rotation that Malcome will start unless Richt has a change of heart.
“I think he’s ready to go,” quarterback Aaron Murray said. “I think him and Richard have stepped up and been some great leaders for those younger guys and taught them what to do in making sure they’re ready to go. Being one of the older guys, he looks great. He’s definitely in command and knows what he’s doing.”
Said Malcome: “I feel like I’m the man as far as just knowing what to do. I feel like I have no pressure. Coaches don’t say too much to me anymore. They just let me go out there and play, and by them doing that, I don’t make mistakes.”