ATHENS — Keith Marshall is healthy again, so Nick Chubb doesn’t have to be a one-man tailback corps for Georgia this season.
After being limited by injuries to a combined eight games the last two years, Marshall is trying to return to the form he showed in 2012, when he and Todd Gurley were the star freshmen tailbacks from North Carolina.
Marshall ran for 759 yards and eight touchdowns as a freshman, but he hasn’t been the same since then. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee early in the 2013 season. He played only three games last year due to knee and ankle injuries.
Now Chubb and others are talking about Marshall’s resurgence in preseason practice.
“I’m seeing great things from Keith,” Chubb said Tuesday. “I don’t know how he looked his freshman year in practice but I know how he played in games and I can tell you from what I’ve seen he looks very good.”
Marshall has reclaimed the burst that made him so effective as a freshman.
“I’m feeling good,” Marshall said. “It’s a long season and I’m going to try to maintain that. We all deal with little dings and stuff but I’m just trying to stay healthy as possible. I feel like the offseason program has me feeling healthy and back being explosive and having strength. I’m excited.”
Georgia also has Sony Michel, Brendan Douglas and A.J. Turman at tailback. Chubb is the star in the group, but he said the depth makes the running game stronger.
“I think we bring a full package,” Chubb said. “We’re a mixture of everything. We have every kind of back out there. We have power backs. Sony and Keith are versatile, they do a little bit of everything. They can move out and catch balls a lot better than most of us.”
Chubb had 30 or more carries in two games last season when Gurley missed time with a suspension and a knee injury. Chubb had 219 carries for the season, more than three times the total of any other returning back.
Coach Mark Richt is hoping for more balance this season.
“I don’t want a guy to carry 35 times a game all season long,” Richt said.
Georgia could have a more productive running attack even if Chubb doesn’t match his 1,547 yards and 14 touchdowns from last year.
“It’s great from a team standpoint,” Marshall said. “The load is not all on one guy. We have a lot more guys that can compete and contribute than we’ve had in the past.”
Marshall has a new beard. “Just trying something new,” he said. He also has a new attitude after shedding his knee brace.
“I never really lost any confidence, but when you go out there and it doesn’t feel good, you think about it,” he said. “I’m at the point now where I’m not worried about it.
“I ditched the brace and that’s a big thing. I didn’t want to wear that. I feel that once you do that you feel like you’re back all the way.”
NOTES: Heavy rain forced Georgia to move Wednesday’s practice to the Falcons’ indoor facility in Flowery Branch, Georgia. The team boarded buses for the hour-long drive. Georgia plans to build an on-campus indoor practice facility. Construction will begin following the 2015 season and could continue into the 2016 season.