Georgia Bulldogs: Ken Malcome

Backfield depth could be new issue

December, 27, 2013
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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.”

Post-spring position review: RB

April, 16, 2013
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Editor’s note: Over the next two weeks, we’ll take a closer look at each of Georgia’s position groups at the end of spring practice. Today we examine the running backs:

J.J. Green
Radi Nabulsi/ESPNNewcomer J.J. Green, an early enrollee at UGA, turned a lot of heads this spring and could provide a nice change of pace in the backfield.
Returning players/stats: Tailback: Todd Gurley, So. (12 starts in 2012, 222 carries, 1,385 yards, 17 TDs); Keith Marshall, So. (One start, 117-759, 8 TDs), Brandon Harton, Jr. (8-20). Fullback: Merritt Hall, So. (6 starts, 2-10); Quayvon Hicks, So. (no carries)

Newcomers: J.J. Green, Fr. (ESPN’s No. 58 CB in 2013 class. Enrolled in January); A.J. Turman, Fr. (No. 22 RB. Expected to enroll this summer); Brendan Douglas, Fr. (No. 4 FB. Expected to enroll this summer)

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Morant leaves UGA program

February, 4, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia’s 2010 football recruiting class has suffered further attrition now that outside linebacker Dexter Morant left the team.

UGA sports information director Claude Felton confirmed on Monday morning that Morant has “left the university due to academic considerations.”

Morant is officially the eighth member of Georgia’s 19-man 2010 signing class -- joining tailback Ken Malcome, safety Jakar Hamilton, cornerback Derek Owens, linebacker Demetre Baker, offensive lineman Brent Benedict, defensive end Jalen Fields and receiver Lonnie Outlaw -- who either failed to qualify academically, transferred or who has been dismissed outright. Meanwhile, offensive lineman Kolton Houston has yet to play in a game and linebacker Brandon Burrows made a limited college debut just last fall.

ESPN rated Morant as a three-star prospect and the nation’s No. 75 defensive end when he signed with the Bulldogs. However, he was frequently set back by injuries at Georgia and never actually appeared in a game in three seasons.

Morant quit the team minutes before his first practice in 2010, with Coach Mark Richt reporting that he “just felt like he lost the desire to play.” He returned to the team four days later.

Position breakdown: Wrapup 

January, 29, 2013
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Editor’s note: Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve taken a look at Georgia’s depth chart and its recruiting efforts by position. We’ll wrap up today by discussing who we’ll be watching this season and the areas Georgia must address between now and signing day, plus over the next couple of years:

2012 depth chart: Georgia returns 15 players who started the Capital One Bowl against Nebraska -- 10 on offense, three on defense and both kickers -- led by quarterback Aaron Murray, tailback Todd Gurley and the entire offensive line. The Bulldogs lost three defensive underclassmen -- All-America outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, inside linebacker Alec Ogletree and nose guard Kwame Geathers -- to the NFL draft and a total of 12 key defensive contributors.

Who’s ready to move up for more playing time?: The defense obviously must reload this season, but defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is quick to point out that the group might lack experience, but it has plenty of talent. Nose guard will be one of the key positions to watch this spring, with Jonathan Taylor, John Atkins (Thomson, Ga./Hargrave Military) and Chris Mayes (Griffin, Ga./Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College) all competing for playing time. Inside linebacker -- where early enrollees Ryne Rankin (Orlando, Fla./East River) and Reggie Carter (Snellville, Ga./South Gwinnett) are already in the fold -- and defensive back are also positions of interest. We’ll be interested to see whether rising sophomores Sheldon Dawson and Josh Harvey-Clemons can step into leading roles during the spring.

By the numbers: UGA classes since 2006 

January, 18, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Here’s a breakdown of Georgia’s last seven recruiting classes and what they managed to accomplish in college and beyond:

2006
ESPN top five classes: Florida, USC, Texas, Georgia, Notre Dame
Georgia’s ranking: 4

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Dawgs Snapshot 2013: A.J. Turman 

January, 17, 2013
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To gear up for 2013 national signing day, DawgNation's Radi Nabulsi is breaking down every commitment in the Bulldogs' 2013 recruiting class.

Vitals: Running back A.J. Turman, Orlando. Fla./Boone | 6-foot, 198 pounds

Committed: November 13, 2012

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Position scouting report: RBs 

January, 10, 2013
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Editor’s note: Over the next several weeks, we’ll take a look at each position on Georgia’s depth chart and project how it might look in the future. Today we examine Georgia’s running backs:


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Top 5 moments: Jones takes over

December, 10, 2012
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Editor’s note: Each day this week, we will look back at a memorable moment or series of events from Georgia’s 2012 season. We begin today with Jarvis Jones’ game-changing plays in two Bulldogs victories.

ATHENS, Ga. -- In a season full of highlight-reel plays, Georgia’s All-America outside linebacker Jarvis Jones provided some of the most memorable moments.

[+] EnlargeJordan Reed
Icon SMIJarvis Jones' strip of Jordan Reed at the Georgia goal line sealed the Bulldogs' 17-9 victory over Florida and capped a dominating performance.
In particular, he placed himself in the Heisman Trophy conversation (he finished 10th) with a pair of dominant performances in wins against Missouri and Florida.

Although injuries eventually derailed Mizzou’s season, the Tigers were a formidable opponent when the Bulldogs visited Columbia in Week 2 for the SEC newcomer’s first conference game. And Georgia’s outlook wasn’t particularly sunny late in the third quarter when it trailed 20-17. But Jones was the driving force in the Bulldogs’ 24-0 run to close the game, generating two touchdowns almost single-handedly.

With the Bulldogs leading 27-20 midway through the fourth quarter, Jones surprised Mizzou quarterback James Franklin by dropping back into pass coverage, picking off his throw at the Tigers’ 22-yard line and returning it all the way to the 1 to set up a Todd Gurley touchdown.

On Missouri’s very next possession, Jones ran down Franklin in the backfield for a sack and jarred the ball loose for a fumble that Jordan Jenkins recovered at the Tigers’ 5. Ken Malcome scored a touchdown shortly afterward that pushed what had been a one-touchdown lead to a three-score advantage in the matter of only a few plays.

The national media started pumping Jones for the Heisman that night, but a series of injuries would take the steam out of the junior’s grassroots campaign. However, if a defensive player ever gave a performance that merited that kind of attention, it was Jones’ similar game-changing effort in a 17-9 win against then-unbeaten Florida.

He actually improved upon a four-sack effort against the Gators from 2011 by dominating every facet of the rematch. His final line: 13 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries would be an acceptable total for the average defensive starter -- for an entire season.

Jones did it in one game and provided possibly the play of Georgia’s season when he chased down Gators tight end Jordan Reed at the Bulldogs’ goal line and forced a fumble that Sanders Commings recovered in the end zone with 2:05 remaining to snuff out Florida’s comeback bid.

Johnny Manziel, Manti Te’o or Collin Klein enjoyed more successful seasons in the eyes of the many Heisman voters who helped them become finalists for the award. But Jones at his best was every bit as important as any of those players -- and his performances in these two games in particular paved the way for Georgia to win its second straight SEC East title and come within an eyelash of playing for the BCS title.

Malcome's tough runs make late impact

October, 24, 2012
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Ken MalcomeDak Dillon/US PresswireKen Malcome has turned into a closer of sorts for the Bulldogs, as he's been given key fourth-quarter carries the last two games.
ATHENS, Ga. -- Ken Malcome isn’t necessarily Georgia’s closer, but he has played that role in the last two games.

Although freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall have replaced Malcome atop the tailback depth chart, the sophomore received the bulk of his carries on Georgia’s final drive in both games and largely delivered positive results.

Malcome ran five times for a team-high 45 yards on the Bulldogs’ final possession in a loss against South Carolina, scoring his team’s only touchdown on a 3-yard burst with 1:55 left in the game. And last week against Kentucky, six of Malcome’s seven total carries (for a total of 19 yards) came on the Bulldogs’ final drive, when they needed to burn time off the clock while clinging to a 29-24 lead.

“Usually at that time of the game, he’s usually a little bit fresher than the other two and he is a very good downhill runner,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “As you observe him, he’s usually always getting yards after contact and even when nothing’s there, he seems to be pushing the pile and finishing runs and he’s done a good job of securing the football. Those are things that you want at that time of the game.”

That’s the role Richard Samuel played on the Bulldogs’ game-winning drive last season against Florida -- Georgia’s opponent on Saturday -- but Richt does not predict Samuel taking carries away from Malcome or one of the freshmen in Saturday’s rematch.

“At the tailback position, I don’t know,” Richt said. “We’ve got our rotation right now and I doubt it would change much, although Richard’s always ready to play at the tailback or the fullback for that matter.”

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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Georgia got what it wanted when Florida hammered South Carolina on Saturday afternoon, ostensibly setting up next week’s Georgia-Florida game to be for the lead in the SEC East race.

The Bulldogs nearly failed to hold up their end of the bargain that night, however, struggling throughout against four-touchdown underdog Kentucky before finally winning 29-24.

It was not the easy night most Bulldogs fans expected, but the win still gives Georgia a chance to control its destiny, which was the goal when the night began.

It was over when: Ken Malcome’s 5-yard run to the Kentucky 20 gave Georgia a first down and forced the Wildcats to use their last timeout, essentially allowing the Bulldogs to run out the remaining time on the clock.

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Grantham: Bye week restored continuity

October, 16, 2012
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Todd GranthamAP Photo/Paul AbellGeorgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham used the bye week to work on his defense's on-field communication.
ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia’s coaching staff has been careful to avoid making excuses for any underperformances up to and including the Bulldogs’ most recent game, where they suffered their first loss of the season against South Carolina.

But defensive coordinator Todd Grantham clearly is relieved to have had last week’s open date to evaluate the miscommunications and misplays that helped opposing offenses accumulate 13 “explosive plays” -- which he defines as any play that covered 24 or more yards -- in the first half of the season.

“We basically had three objectives in the bye week,” Grantham said after Tuesday’s practice. “No. 1 is we had to get some guys healthy. No. 2 is we wanted to get some continuity with the guys that we have available right now. And then the last thing is we took a look at each individual player and said, ‘Here are the things you’ve got to do to improve to make our team better. And if you do that and take a team attitude, we’ll be better.’

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UGA midseason report card: RBs 

October, 9, 2012
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Editor’s note: Georgia’s football season is halfway over and the Bulldogs will take this weekend off before resuming SEC play next Saturday at Kentucky. We’ll take a look at a different position group each day this week and evaluate how it performed in the first half of the season in our DawgNation midseason report cards.

ATHENS, Ga. -- Perhaps the biggest feel-good story in Georgia’s first six games was the performance by the Bulldogs’ new 1-2 punch at tailback from freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.

Even after a disappointing night for Georgia’s offense last Saturday against South Carolina, Gurley (81 carries for 575 yards, nine TDs) and Marshall (64-465, 5 TDs) still sit fourth and 10th, respectively, among the SEC’s rushing leaders. Considering that the position was one of Georgia’s greatest uncertainties last season and one of its biggest question marks entering the fall, that’s a heck of a place to be.

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Richt Sunday teleconference highlights 

October, 7, 2012
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Some highlights from Mark Richt’s Sunday media teleconference following Georgia’s 35-7 loss to South Carolina:

On whether Georgia might look at different combinations on the offensive line:
I don’t think we’ll do anything that would change right now. There’s a combination where [Mark] Beard would get to play some and we might look at that a little bit. I know Watts’ [Dantzler] ankle’s been bothering him a little bit, so he hasn’t had much of a chance to truly compete. But I still think we’ve got our best five in there, or at least our best six as we move that combination around.

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3 Up, 3 Down: South Carolina 35, UGA 7 

October, 7, 2012
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COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Georgia’s coaches and players said their season goal of playing for a BCS championship is not an impossibility after Saturday’s loss at South Carolina -- but in truth, it will take a minor miracle for the Bulldogs to even be in the title conversation after the Gamecocks delivered a 35-7 thrashing at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Mark Richt’s Bulldogs (5-1 (3-1 SEC) enter their bye week searching for answers, after South Carolina jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the game’s first 10 minutes and controlled throughout -- following five straight weeks where Georgia’s offense could almost do no wrong. Let’s take a look at some of what went right and wrong for the Bulldogs:

THREE UP

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Gamecocks D-line dominates throughout

October, 7, 2012
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COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Georgia offensive line coach Will Friend was careful to point out throughout the Bulldogs’ early-season offensive successes that his rebuilding group still had a lot of progress to make before he would call it a dominant unit.

South Carolina’s defensive front showed why Friend tried to temper the enthusiasm about his players, as the Gamecocks completely controlled the line of scrimmage en route to a 35-7 victory.

“I didn’t see us, especially in the first half, being able to generate a drive because their front was whipping us,” said Georgia coach Mark Richt, whose team fell behind 21-0 in the game’s first 10 minutes. “So you hope to make a play here and there to change the momentum of the game and we just couldn’t get it done.”

They couldn’t get it done because a previously dominant running game ran into a brick wall. Freshman Todd Gurley, who came in as the SEC’s leading rusher, broke a 15-yard run on his first carry and never got another one that long. He finished with 13 carries for 39 yards, while fellow freshman sensation Keith Marshall ran 12 times for 37 yards.

Ken Malcome actually led the Bulldogs with 45 rushing yards on five carries, including their only score -- a 3-yard run when the game was already well out of reach -- on a night that was otherwise a disaster in every way for the Bulldogs’ previously high-scoring offense.

The Bulldogs finished with seven points and 224 total yards -- 41 points and 312 yards below their per-game averages -- thanks in large part to do much of anything at all early in posssessions.

“They’re very talented, especially in their front four, but I think we killed ourselves with too many third-and-longs,” Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray said. “When you’re in third-and-long and they know you have to throw the ball, those ends can gear up and that whole defensive line -- every defense does that.

“That’s a goal of every defense is to get third-and-long and put the offense in a passing situation and let their front four do work. That’s our problem. We put ourselves in that situation. We need to do better on first and second down in order to not let that happen.”

And it wasn’t just South Carolina’s star defensive ends, Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor, who made plays. Defensive end Chaz Sutton had one of the Gamecocks’ two sacks -- Clowney had the other -- and defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles deflected a Murray pass that resulted in the game’s only turnover, a first-quarter interception by DeVonte Holloman.

“The front five, it was all of us that were making mistakes and not getting the job done,” Georgia right guard Chris Burnette said. “We definitely want to make sure that we can figure out those issues and try to fix them for the next game.”

The Bulldogs knew coming in that South Carolina’s deep and talented defensive front would create the greatest challenge they’d faced yet. After the Gamecocks dominated the line of scrimmage throughout, Richt acknowledged that they were as good as advertised.

“Their defense the entire night just took care of business,” Richt said. “We’ve got to give them a lot of credit. We got the consolation touchdown at the end just so we didn’t get the goose egg, but they whipped us pretty good.”

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