DN Roundtable: Best back in 2012? 

August, 8, 2012
Seven practices into the Georgia Bulldogs’ fall camp and we are already looking at how the season is going to end. Well not entirely. We are just thinking about how the mercurial running back position at Georgia is going to pan out this season. The competition to replace Isaiah Crowell is stiff and now that the pads are on, it only looks to get tougher. So the DawgNation Roundtable question this week is:

"Which running back will start the first game, and who will have the most rushing yards at the end of the season?"
[+] EnlargeZander Ogletre, Richard Samuel
Radi Nabulsi/ESPN.comCoach Mark Richt rewards veterans who work hard, so senior Richard Samuel (right) is likely to be tabbed to start at either tailback or fullback.
David Ching: Since we're all of six days into preseason camp as I type this, we're obviously doing little more than making blind guesses here. That said, this is one of the most interesting subjects of camp in my mind. At some point -- and maybe it starts right after today's first preseason scrimmage -- Georgia has to establish a pecking order at tailback and begin figuring out a tailback game plan moving forward.

I've seen enough of Georgia's coaching staff to know that they love experience, so I'll give the early edge to Ken Malcome and Richard Samuel. And I'll take a guess that Malcome starts the opener against Buffalo. But I also think we'll see more and more of freshmen Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley as the season progresses and that they will eventually establish themselves as the Bulldogs' top backfield options. In what little I've seen of Gurley, I'm genuinely intrigued by what he brings to the backfield. I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that he will be Georgia's leading rusher at the end of the season.

Radi Nabulsi: This is a tough one. Any slight injury could quickly change the depth chart. For example, when asked this question last year, I answered: Malcome. At the time, Samuel and Crowell were both injured. Later, Malcome would get hurt and have only one carry through the first nine games.

So, assuming everyone stays healthy, I am going to say Samuel will start against Buffalo, if he remains at tailback. Mark Richt spoke with Samuel this week and told the senior to be ready to play both. Richt will want to reward the selfless Samuel, and Richt is conservative -- no point in putting pressure on the young backs. If Samuel starts at fullback, I think Malcome gets the start.

As for who will have the most yards at the end of the season, I am going to say Marshall. Having enrolled in spring, Marshall has a leg up on fellow track star Gurley. Malcome has yet to demonstrate that he has the durability to put up big numbers. Samuel will be a great asset on the field at fullback to help the freshmen remember their assignments. Plus if Marshall gets a little daylight he could pick up yardage in big chunks.

Kipp Adams Ken Malcome will likely start the first game because he is the one with the most experience in the offense, and quite frankly he has earned it. Malcome worked hard in the offseason, did well in the spring scrimmage and should be able to better handle his role in pass-blocking compared to the incoming freshmen. And while Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley are highly talented, let’s not discount Malcome, either.

A former ESPN 150 prospect coming out of high school, when healthy, Malcome has shown the ability to be a workhorse back for Georgia.

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