ATHENS, Ga. -- Nobody seemed too surprised by Mark Richt’s Wednesday supposition that Ken Malcome would be Georgia’s starting tailback in the Sept. 1 opener against Buffalo -- except perhaps Malcome himself.
“I’m surprised and happy he said that, but I’m not going to hold back because he said it,” Malcome said. “It’s a good thing. I kind of had the mindset that no matter what, I was going to be a starter. But it’s good to hear Coach Richt say that.”
As Malcome said, he expects to be a starter, having carried the No. 1 label throughout the summer and preseason. He was simply surprised that Richt said it after Wednesday’s team scrimmage, having shared carries with Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall and Richard Samuel throughout the month of August.
But that’s what Richt did when asked after the scrimmage about how he sees the tailback pecking order falling into place
“We might announce the starter, but to sit there and try to say who’s next … I’m pretty sure Ken Malcome’s going to start,” Richt said. “But something could change between now and then.”
Freshman Gurley has been the preseason headliner, having rushed 19 times for 199 yards and four touchdowns according to unofficial stats in Georgia’s three scrimmages. Malcome has 16 carries for 117 yards, Marshall 15 for 63 and Samuel nine for 50.
Richt said even if he announces Malcome as the starter, he doubts he’ll name an exact pecking order beyond that.
“I haven’t talked to the staff to see how we’re going to do it. It’s just too early,” Richt said. “But even when we do that, I doubt I’ll announce anything because I don’t even want the guys to know. I want them to just keep fighting, keep competing. We’ll tell them the night before the game, maybe.”
All four backs figure to earn their share of carries when the real games begin. So while Malcome wants and expects to be the starter, he also figures there will be a backfield timeshare when the Bulldogs open the season.
“It’s hard to tell who’s the starter,” he said. “We all get in with the ones, so we’re not too much heavy on who’s the starter, we’re really heavy on a rotation. That’s really the way we are.”
Receiver rotation: After injuries damaged Georgia’s depth at receiver last season, the Bulldogs say they feel good about a sizable group of wideouts as the regular season approaches.
Marlon Brown has had two good scrimmages -- including seven catches for 98 yards on Wednesday -- while Tavarres King, Chris Conley, Michael Bennett, Rantavious Wooten, Justin Scott-Wesley and Malcolm Mitchell should all be factors. Rhett McGowan and possibly freshman Blake Tibbs also figure into the equation somewhere.
“I know our guys are in extremely good shape and I know they can go a while,” quarterback Aaron Murray said. “I think right now we have seven or eight guys in the rotation that are doing a great job of really giving each other a break. Really I see no drop-off when any of them come subbing out.”
In fact, having a number of receiving options is actually more helpful for Georgia since it wants to pick up the pace of its no-huddle offense this fall.
“I feel like right now we’re at seven or eight and that’s pretty good for the no-huddle offense that we run,” Brown said. “Everybody’s getting in and getting out and everybody’s fresh. If they’re fresh they’re going to be able to make more plays.”
Safety first: In keeping with his refusal to discuss All-American Bacarri Rambo’s status amid reports that he will be suspended to open the season, Richt refused to speculate on who would start at safety against Buffalo.
“I probably won’t ever say that just because strategically I don’t know if I want people to know what we’re going to do,” Richt said. “It might give them a hint.”
Extra points: After criticizing the quarterbacks for being too sloppy with the ball and fumbling in the pocket in the last scrimmage, Richt said there were no fumbles in Wednesday’s scrimmage. Amarlo Herrera’s interception return for a touchdown was the only turnover by either side. … Offensive lineman Mark Beard (knee sprain) and tight end Jay Rome (hamstring strain) both sat out the scrimmage. … Georgia attempted one field goal in the scrimmage and Marshall Morgan missed from 57 yards at the end of regulation.