Georgia junior tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel have decisions to make regarding next season as the Bulldogs are days away from beginning practices for their Dec. 30 Liberty Bowl game against TCU.
Longtime NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper has weighed in on the tailback tandem, and his advice?
"I don't think Chubb or Michel has maximized his grade yet, and another year might allow that to happen," Kiper said this week on a conference call. "This year did not allow it to happen, so if you're happy being a third-, fourth- or fifth-round pick, you come out. If you want to try and help your stock, you go back for another year."
Chubb and Michel have had junior seasons that have been solid but not spectacular. The 5-foot-10, 228-pound Chubb has rushed for 988 yards and 4.8 yards per carry in his first season since tearing three knee ligaments at Tennessee in October 2015, and he was slowed in early October this year due to a sprained ankle at Ole Miss.
His yards per carry this season, which began with a 222-yard splash against North Carolina in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, were well off his 7.1-yard clip as a freshman and his school-record, 8.1-yard pace last season until his injury.
"Chubb was great early but fell back a bit and wasn't as big-time and dynamic as you thought he would be," Kiper said. "There were a lot of great running backs playing week in and week out, and I think that kind of pushed him down a little bit. He is not in the top 10 of the running back group, and my attitude with him is, 'Are you going to be OK if you drop a little bit?'
"A lot of kids are like, 'I know I can play, and I don't care where I go,' while others want to go somewhere or else they won't be happy."
Chubb will enter the Liberty Bowl with 3,282 career rushing yards and needs 4 yards to pass Todd Gurley as the second-leading rusher in Georgia history behind Herschel Walker. Gurley bypassed his senior season and was the 10th overall selection in the 2015 draft.
LSU's Leonard Fournette, who already has announced that he will be forgoing his senior year in Baton Rouge, and Florida State's Dalvin Cook headline a proven crop of college tailbacks that includes Stanford's Christian McCaffrey, Tennessee's Alvin Kamara, Ohio State's Curtis Samuel, Oregon's Royce Freeman, Clemson's Wayne Gallman, Oklahoma's Samaje Perine and Texas' D'Onta Foreman.
Michel rushed for 1,161 yards and 5.3 yards per carry last season, when he picked up the slack once Chubb went down, and has rushed for 753 yards (5.5 per carry) this year. He broke his hand in last season's game against Florida and suffered an open fracture of his forearm in July in an ATV accident.
That setback kept the 5-11, 222-pound Michel out of the opener against UNC.
"With Michel, I would say be the main guy and go back," Kiper said.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.