Bulldogs' Sony Michel envisioned 1,000-yard season

Bulldogs' Sony Michel envisioned 1,000-yard season

Already past 1,000 yards, Michel looking for more

December 24th, 2015 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Sony Michel rushed for 149 yards last month at Georgia Tech, clinching a 1,000-yard season for Georgia's sophomore tailback. It's the second straight year the Bulldogs have had a player who wouldn't have been expected to reach the milestone at the start of the season do so.

Photo by Ted Mayer

McClendon to Gamecocks

On Wednesday, new South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp announced the hiring of Georgia receivers coach Bryan McClendon as his new co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach. McClendon will join Muschamp’s staff after serving as interim head coach for the Bulldogs in their Jan. 2 matchup against Penn State in the TaxSlayer Bowl.

“Bryan is an up-and-comer in the coaching profession,” Muschamp said in a release. “It says a lot about his abilities as a coach to be named the interim head coach for the Bulldogs in their bowl game.”

Muschamp also hired former Auburn quarterback and former Tennessee receivers coach Pat Washington as his tight ends coach.

There are a couple of surprising aspects to Sony Michel rushing for 1,000 yards this season at Georgia.

The first is that he actually accomplished the feat. The second is that it went according to plan.

"It was a goal at the beginning of the year," Michel said. "I don't usually set goals. I just kind of go work hard and play my best and let stuff like that happen, but I did set that goal. I got it, but I still feel like there is more out there to get."

The 5-foot-11, 212-pound sophomore from Plantation, Fla., rushed for a respectable 410 yards and 6.4 yards per carry a year ago, but those numbers paled to classmate Nick Chubb's 1,547 yards and 7.1 yards per rush. Chubb capped last season with a 266-yard effort in a 37-14 rout of Louisville in the Belk Bowl and spent the first few games this year as a prominent Heisman Trophy candidate.

So why did Michel, knowing Chubb was Georgia's offensive workhorse, foresee a 1,000-yard season for himself?

"It was just a matter of competing," he said. "I expected Nick to get over 1,000, and I expected me to go in there and challenge myself to get 1,000 as well."

Michel, who has 1,076 rushing yards entering the TaxSlayer Bowl against Penn State on Jan. 2 in Jacksonville, Fla., was averaging 55.2 yards through five games and was on pace for a 700-yard season. Chubb rushed for 745 yards through the first five games, averaging 149 per contest, but everything changed when he tore knee ligaments on the first play of the Oct. 10 trip to Tennessee.

That vaulted Michel to the starting role, and he responded with a 145-yard effort against the Volunteers and also surpassed 100 yards against Kentucky, Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech. His season-high single-game total of 165 yards came against Kentucky, but there was no bigger run than his 25-yard touchdown in overtime that sealed the 23-17 win over Georgia Southern, avoiding what arguably could have been the most humbling loss in Georgia football history.

"All I did was raise my arms to the heavens and said, 'Thank you, God,'" quarterback Greyson Lambert said of Michel's final run against the Eagles.

Michel is the 15th 1,000-yard rusher in Bulldogs history and the fifth in nine seasons, but he is the second straight unexpected tailback to turn the trick. Todd Gurley entered last season as Georgia's clear-cut superstar but gave way to Chubb due to a four-game suspension and a torn ACL. This time around it was Chubb going down and Michel stepping up.

Has life changed for Michel with the milestone he clinched with a 149-yard showing at Georgia Tech?

"It's the same as when I was a 400-yard rusher," he said, smiling. "Nothing has changed, other than being recognized a little bit more. It's great, but I would like to add to it in this next game."

Georgia ranks 36th nationally in rushing entering the TaxSlayer Bowl, averaging 194.3 yards per contest. Penn State ranks 46th in rushing defense, allowing 149.8 yards per game.

The Bulldogs played this season with an offensive coaching staff consisting of Brian Schottenheimer, Thomas Brown, Bryan McClendon, John Lilly and Rob Sale, but none of them are expected to remain under new head coach Kirby Smart. Schottenheimer, the coordinator, is the only one of the five who won't coach in the bowl.

"I don't think this will have too much of an effect on the players," Michel said. "We see the news and it surprises us, but at the end of the day, we had some time off to relax and not be overwhelmed by all the stuff that's been going on.

"At the end of the day, we've got to play football. There is no excuse for us to lose this game."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.


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