Georgia Bulldogs: Thomas Brown

Backfield depth could be new issue

December, 27, 2013
12/27/13
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia's coaches hesitate to publicly look beyond their Jan. 1 meeting with Nebraska, but they should experience an entirely new problem within the next few months.

For the first time in years -- maybe as far back as 2006, when a loaded backfield prompted coach Mark Richt to redshirt future All-American Knowshon Moreno -- Georgia could actually have too many good tailbacks to take full advantage of everyone's abilities.

[+] EnlargeDouglas
Daniel Shirey/USA TODAY SportsFreshman Brendan Douglas averaged 4.3 yards per rush this season for Georgia.
“There's some great backs here, and it's good to have that many backs that you can roll in there with the different kind of running styles they have,” said Brendan Douglas, who rushed for 337 yards this season as a freshman. “It'll be interesting next year, plus we're getting those two good backs coming in here and we'll just have to see what happens when they get here.”

Those two good backs -- ESPN 300 prospects Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, both of whom rank among the top eight prospects at the position -- have committed to sign with Georgia in February. Presumably they will join a backfield that already includes sophomores Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall and freshmen Douglas, J.J. Green and A.J. Turman.

All-SEC honoree Gurley and Marshall were obviously the group's leaders after rushing for 2,144 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2012, but the freshmen entered this season as complete unknowns.

When Ken Malcome opted to transfer after the 2012 season, Georgia's coaches knew they would have to play at least two of the newcomers behind the two returning stars. They couldn't have expected, however, that injuries to Gurley and Marshall would cause them to rely so heavily on Green and Douglas.

“Douglas and Green we were probably going to have to play because of the depth issue,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “We were getting those guys ready to play special teams. They probably might not have gotten as many snaps at running back.”

There was a time where the coaches considered playing Turman, as well, but they were able to preserve his redshirt by sticking with Douglas and Green until Gurley returned from a three-game absence to play against Florida on Nov. 2.

Gurley recently described Turman as “a beast” and predicted that he will also make an impact once he wins an opportunity to contribute.

“People know their roles,” Gurley said. “I'm pretty sure guys, just like Turman, he would have loved to have come in and played. Sometimes you've got to know your role and if that's redshirting, then it's getting redshirted. And if not, then just try to do your best to get on the field or keep getting better.”

That's what Green and Douglas accomplished as freshmen, establishing themselves as potentially productive SEC tailbacks should they remain at the position. Both players possess the ability to play elsewhere -- Green at receiver or cornerback and Douglas at fullback -- and said they are willing to play wherever needed, although they consider themselves tailbacks first.

Asked recently about Green, Richt said the coaches also view him as a running back, although his role might someday expand to include some receiving duties, as well. So it appears that even with Michel and Chubb set to join the roster in 2014, the Bulldogs could soon possess tailback depth that will rank among the best in the conference. And with Gurley and Marshall both entering their junior seasons -- meaning they will be eligible to enter the NFL draft after next fall -- now is a good time to reload.

“I don’t know if you can ever have enough backs, and certainly injury is an issue,” Richt said. “Guys that are talented enough to possibly have a three-year career instead of a four-year career, you’ve got to plan for all of those things. I don’t know what decisions guys will make down the road, but certainly we’ve got some very talented backs that will have some decisions to make, as well. That’s all part of the reason to continue to recruit great players.”

Michel and Chubb have certainly earned that distinction within recruiting circles, so this could legitimately become Georgia's most talented backfield since the 2006 bunch that included future NFL players Moreno, Danny Ware, Kregg Lumpkin and Thomas Brown.

Green said he, Douglas and Turman will show the newcomers the ropes just like Marshall and Gurley did, but predicted that a fierce competition for playing time will await the freshmen once they arrive on campus.

“Competing at practice, who wants it more? Working out, who wants it more? That's why you have an offseason. Who's going to want it more?” said Green, who is second on the team with 365 rushing yards. “Who's going to step in there and learn the playbook? That's all it's going to take: who wants it more?

“You watch Keith, you watch Todd. You're going to want to be just like them. You're going to try to ball out.”

Former Bulldog Paul Oliver dead at 29

September, 25, 2013
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Former Georgia cornerback Paul Oliver died Tuesday night at age 29, the victim of an apparent suicide according to a report from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Georgia coach Mark Richt discussed his former player's death Wednesday afternoon on the weekly SEC coaches teleconference.

“I was crushed this morning when I heard it, quite frankly,” Richt said. “I haven't been able to keep it off my mind.”

Oliver spent five seasons in the NFL, mostly as a reserve defensive back with the San Diego Chargers. He was perhaps best known among Georgia fans as the player who lined up against Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson in the 2006 Georgia-Georgia Tech game and limited the Yellow Jackets superstar to two catches for 13 yards, while also intercepting a pass, breaking up three more and forcing a fumble.

The interception came on Georgia Tech's final drive and sealed the Bulldogs' 15-12 victory.

Oliver opted to return to Georgia for what would have been his senior season, 2007, but he was declared academically ineligible in the spring and entered the NFL supplemental draft. The Chargers picked him in the fourth round of the draft and he went on to play for the team from 2007-10.

Word of Oliver's death began to make the rounds on social media on Wednesday morning.

Oliver's former teammate and fellow UGA defensive back Kelin Johnson posted a photo of himself and Oliver after a Georgia game with the caption, “We fought, we cried, we bled, we won championships, we did mat drills, we partied, we shared a DB bond together all because of our first love, football. I know you are in a better place now.”

Former UGA running back Thomas Brown, now an assistant coach at Marshall, added, “So sad to hear Paul Oliver is no longer with us. Former teammate and friend gone. Keep his family in your prayers.”

Union-Tribune Chargers reporter Michael Gehlken tweeted a statement from Oliver's family in the wake of Wednesday's news: “We appreciate all the thoughts and prayers. We request privacy in the wake of this tragic loss.”

Instant analysis: Georgia 56, FAU 20

September, 15, 2012
9/15/12
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Although Florida Atlantic (1-2) kept things close for most of the first half, No. 7 Georgia (3-0) efficiently pulled away for a 56-20 win to achieve a 3-0 start for the first time since 2008.


It was over when: A six-touchdown favorite, Georgia led just 28-14 at halftime but scored two quick touchdowns in the third quarter -- on a 36-yard Arthur Lynch catch and a 38-yard Todd Gurley run -- to end any thought of an FAU upset.

Game ball goes to: Gurley and Keith Marshall. The two freshmen both rushed for more than 100 yards, marking the first time since last year’s Auburn game (Isaiah Crowell and Carlton Thomas) that two Bulldog backs both broke the 100-yard barrier and the first time since 2004 against Vanderbilt (Danny Ware and Thomas Brown) that two freshmen accomplished the feat. Marshall finished with 10 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown, and Gurley ran 10 times for 111 yards and a score.

Stat of the game: 713. Without injured All-America outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, Georgia’s defense didn’t have its best night. But the offense had no such issues, rolling up 713 yards of total offense in the blowout victory. That broke the school single-game record for total offense -- previously 667 yards -- set in 1993 against Southern Mississippi.

Turning point: It was only a 21-14 game when Georgia’s Michael Bennett caught a 67-yard touchdown pass with 1:34 left in the second quarter to give the Bulldogs a two-touchdown halftime lead.

Record performances: In addition to the total offense record, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray set a new career high with 342 passing yards on 14-for-19 passing. Marshall and Gurley’s rushing yardage set new career highs, and Bennett (four catches for 110 yards) and Lynch (3 for 73) both had career-best receiving numbers. Florida Atlantic also set a new mark for most yards allowed, breaking the previous record of 651 against Troy in 2009.

Thomas Brown leaving UGA

February, 14, 2012
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Thomas Brown became the most recent defection from Georgia's football strength and conditioning staff on Tuesday when he accepted a job at UT-Chattanooga as running backs coach.

Following stints in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons and Cleveland Browns, Brown worked at his alma mater for the last year as an assistant strength coach under Joe Tereshinski.

He joins Keith Gray among UGA strength coaches who have accepted other positions since the end of football season. Gray recently took a job with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles.

In addition, strength assistant John Kasay recently re-retired after working with Tereshinski's staff over the last year.

Brown, 25, was a standout running back at Georgia between 2004-07. He rushed for 2,646 yards and 23 touchdowns in his UGA career and also set numerous team weightlifting records for running backs. According to his entry in Georgia's football media guide, Brown was "the strongest pound-for-pound football player in the history of Georgia football during his playing career."

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