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Murphy: Richt has chance to highlight running game at SEC Media Days
0715Georgia
Georgia running back Nick Chubb gains some extra yardage against Kentucky during the first half a game in 2014 at Commwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky. - photo by David Stephenson

Georgia coach Mark Richt has a golden opportunity to bring a little life to the otherwise mundane SEC Media Days when he takes to the podium Thursday in Hoover, Ala. All the Bulldogs coach will have to do is speak the truth to get football pundits and media types, including myself, buzzing with chatter for the six remaining weeks until the season opens in September.

These days creep by like an eternity for those of us salivating for another season of college football.

So, here’s all Richt will have to do to get the headlines. It’s so simple.

When asked about his 2015 Georgia program, Richt can calmly cross his arms, lean into the microphone so there’s no misunderstanding and say, ‘We’re going to have the best running game in the entire country.’”

Just like that, the Bulldogs coach will have all eyes on his stable of backs, led by Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Keith Marshall, Brendan Douglas and A.J. Turman.

Chubb is the star, after knocking down defenders like bowling pins and running for more than 1,500 yards as a true freshman. Turman is the only one in the group who didn’t had have a carry in 2014, but has shown flashes to the coaches that he is ready to get a chance.

If Marshall can return to the form of his freshman season, after a knee injury his sophomore season and limited playing time in 2014, it would be the icing on the cake.

Now, nobody in their right mind expects the savvy veteran Georgia coach to do something as brash as to brag about his riches at running back.

Everyone who follows college football saw how easy Chubb made it look when he was thrust into action due to the ridiculous four-game suspension of freakishly-talented Todd Gurley, who went in the first round of the 2015 draft to St. Louis.

Chubb, who went over 200 yards in three games in 2014, will be fully capable of running the ball 25 times a game, no problem, as long as he avoids any detrimental injuries. If as healthy as expected to be, the more-slender Marshall could get it 15 times every week.

It would surprise few people if Chubb was on track for the Heisman Trophy, if not this year, then in 2016 as a junior. Let’s be real: Chubb is a three-year talent before he jumps to the pros.

From last season, Georgia returns almost 2,500 yards of running production. That’s quite a lot in a day and time when college backs seem to bolt for the NFL as soon as they are stars on the college circuit.

Georgia’s strength at running back is a great relief for its inadequacies at quarterback.

Third-year sophomore Brice Ramsey is listed No. 1 on the depth chart, and given the lack of competition, will likely earn the job. His main competition for the job heading into the season was sophomore Jacob Park, who has since left Georgia to play at Navarro (Texas) Junior College.

Richt tweeted out Monday that the quarterback battle is wide open between Ramsey, Faton Bauta and Virginia transfer Greyson Lambert.

However, it makes sense that Ramsey will earn the job. Even with Isaiah McKenzie, Justin Scott-Wesley and Malcolm Mitchell all great talents returning at wide receiver, Ramsey’s inexperience and erratic passing — think back to the second half of the 2014 Belk Bowl — will likely make Georgia’s 2015 season a run-heavy option, even though the game has long been ruled by who can throw it best.

Instead of singling out how great Georgia’s running game is, Richt is more than likely going to keep things very vanilla.

He’ll spend just as much time highlighting a strong defense, led by Leonard Floyd, Jordan Jenkins, East Hall graduate Sterling Bailey, Lorenzo Carter and Reggie Carter. The defensive secondary shouldn’t be too shabby either.

Richt knows better than to pontificate about what’s a glaring strength for Georgia. He’d much rather let the players do the talking.

Bill Murphy is a sports writer for The Times. He can be reached at bmurphy@gainesvilletimes.com

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