As long as Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall stay healthy, the Georgia Bulldogs should be set at tailback through the next two seasons.
Determining the third- and fourth-team tailbacks, however, is an important objective this month.
“It’s invaluable, and I think that’s what camp is about,” Georgia running backs coach Bryan McClendon said after Sunday morning’s two-hour practice. “Camp is about getting your team ready to win games during the season. You’ve got to get your starters at every position ready to where you feel like you’ve got a great chance to win, and you’ve got to get your backups ready in that exact same way.”
The Bulldogs have no shortage of candidates behind Gurley (6-foot-1, 232 pounds) and Marshall (5-11, 219), who combined for 2,144 yards and 25 touchdowns last season. Brandon Harton (5-6, 180) and Kyle Karempelis (5-9, 180) entered the program as walk-ons and have appeared in games each of the past two seasons, and the Bulldogs also have three freshmen in the mix — Brendan Douglas (5-11, 202), J.J. Green (5-9, 183) and A.J. Turman (6-0, 198).
Green signed as a receiver but has mostly worked at tailback since enrolling early, and he was listed No. 3 on the depth chart released earlier this summer.
“All three freshmen are going at it and are preparing as if they are going to play,” McClendon said, “and those guys understand the role that they’re going to have to take. Their job is to basically be the starter, because the bottom line is that we’re going to play more than one running back and all of those guys are one injury away from being that second guy.”
Said offensive coordinator Mike Bobo: “We’ve got to treat them like we treated Gurley and Marshall last year. From what I’ve seen, they are smart men who will pick up the offense.”
Turman was the most touted of the freshmen, rated by 247Sports.com as the nation’s No. 13 tailback prospect. The Bulldogs already have two of the nation’s top-10 tailbacks committed for 2014.
The unheralded Harton was a factor late in the 2011 season, when former tailbacks Isaiah Crowell, Ken Malcome and Carlton Thomas were battling injuries and suspensions. He rushed 15 times for 98 yards in a romp over New Mexico State and also had 22 carries for 101 yards in a 19-10 win over visiting Kentucky that clinched Georgia’s first SEC East title since 2005.
“He’s definitely in the picture,” McClendon said. “He’s done a great job of understanding the things he needs to do in order to stay in the picture, and he’s done a great job of being a mentor to some of our younger guys and teaching them what to do.”
Odds and ends
Tray Matthews worked in a green, noncontact jersey Sunday due to an undisclosed injury, but defensive coordinator Todd Grantham told reporters that the freshman safety should be good to go within a couple of days. … The Bulldogs will put on full pads for the first time this morning.
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