Georgia's projected tailbacks for the 2014 season:
* 2014 commitments
ATHENS, Ga. - Talk about a crowded kennel.
There could be Bulldogs aplenty at the tailback position when Georgia opens its 2014 football season against Clemson at Sanford Stadium. Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall, J.J. Green, Brendan Douglas and A.J. Turman are Georgia's scholarship tailbacks expected back next year, and the Bulldogs have commitments from Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, who are top-100 national prospects.
"I don't know if you can ever have enough backs, and certainly injury is an issue," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "Guys who 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 who will have some decisions to make.
"That's all part of the reason to continue to recruit great players."
The No. 23 Bulldogs (8-4) on Saturday wrapped up their on-campus prepration for the Gator Bowl against Nebraska (8-4) on New Year's Day. Georgia players will practice for the first time in Jacksonville on Friday morning.
Gurley and Marshall, who were top-100 prospects in the 2012 signing class, combined for 2,144 rushing yards as freshmen but only have 1,149 this season after getting sidetracked by injuries. Gurley missed all of October with a sprained ankle, while Marshall tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the Oct. 5 overtime win at Tennessee.
Green had a combined 216 yards in games against Tennessee and Missouri, with Douglas combining for 154 against Missouri and Vanderbilt. Green, Douglas and Turman signed this past February, with Turman redshirting this season.
"Ideally, if you are Georgia, you would love to be able to redshirt Sony Michael as well as Nick Chubb," ESPN national recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill said. "Is that reality? It may be for one, and it could be for both. That's saying that hopefully we don't have another devastating injury to Keith Marshall, and Todd Gurley is able to stay healthy and get through the season. I would anticipate one, if not both, departing early for the National Football League draft.
"If you can redshirt and build some depth at the running back spot, I think that would ultimately prove to be extremely valuable for this Georgia program going forward."
It could be an even deeper tailback depth chart next season at Alabama, where T.J. Yeldon, Kenyan Drake, Derrick Henry, Jalston Fowler, Altee Tenpenny, Dee Hart, Tyren Jones and Alvin Kamara could be back to vie. Yeldon, Drake and Henry have combined for 2,139 yards this season, with Yeldon providing 1,163 of that.
The sizable Fowler has been used this season in multiple roles, most notably catching passes in goal-line situations, and Georgia could be looking to explore opportunities with the diminutive Green.
"We've not had any conversation at all about him moving," Richt said. "I'm not saying he never could or that he couldn't expand his role as having the ability to learn some things out in the slot to have a tailback that has the versatility to learn in the backfield and then get out in the slot a little bit in the future. I'm sure that will be something we talk about in the offseason, but it's not something that we're messing with now."
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Michel (pronounced like Michelle) is the No. 14 overall prospect according to Rivals.com and the No. 16 prospect according to ESPN. He rushed 214 times for 1,840 yards (8.6 yards per carry) and 24 touchdowns as a senior at American Heritage High in Plantation, Fla., and rushed for 6,659 yards and 81 touchdowns in his career.
Chubb, a 5-11, 215-pounder from Cedartown, Ga., rushed 284 times for 2,720 yards (9.6) and 39 touchdowns as a senior and racked up 6,996 yards and 101 touchdowns in his career. He is the No. 43 overall prospect according to Rivals.com and No. 64 according to ESPN.
"They're going to have size, and they're going to have speed," Luginbill said. "Sony Michel brings a make-you-miss capability they maybe haven't had. This is going to be a fun group to watch mature and see who emerges as they go through their years at Georgia."
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