ATHENS — Georgia is now through one week of the first spring practice under Kirby Smart, and the biggest development has to do with someone who isn’t practicing. At least not that much.
Nick Chubb has been in uniform for all three practices, including full pads on Saturday. He’s been seen taking handoffs during media viewing periods. But there’s still reason to avoid irrational exuberance.
Chubb has only participated in that one drill that the media sees, what’s called “play polish.” He takes handoffs and runs straight ahead.
“Now if he had to cut really hard in that drill we wouldn’t do that with him,” Smart said on Saturday.
Indeed, during each media viewing period Chubb has moved over to the side, separate from his teammates, to do light jogging, high-stepping and other exercises.
It’s still further along than was expected, especially since no one at Georgia has said whether they expect Chubb to be able to play against North Carolina in the season opener.
“Yeah I’m pleased he’s doing it. But I can’t tell you whether I’m shocked or surprised,” Smart said. “I’m just comfortable with what the doctors are letting him do.”
Chubb isn’t the only injured Georgia player who’s been participating on a limited basis.
Roquan Smith, the sophomore inside linebacker, had wrist surgery a little over a month ago. But he’s practicing with a big wrap on his hand.
“So Roquan, he can’t go hit people, but there might be a seven-on-seven where they throw the ball all the time,” Smart said. “He can go do that because we’re not going to ask him to hit anybody. He’s getting the mental reps, and he’s getting the mental part, where he’s tagging off instead of hitting.”
Brendan Douglas, the senior tailback, also had wrist surgery, but it was longer ago — during bowl practice — so he can do a bit more. And considering the lack of depth at tailback right now, that’s a good thing, at least as far as having enough bodies for a spring practice.
That was one reason Smart fought to keep A.J. Turman around, to no avail. Georgia has just two healthy scholarship players at tailback: Junior Sony Michel and redshirt freshman Tae Crowder. Don’t forget, not only did Keith Marshall graduate and choose not to use his last year of eligibility, but Quayvon Hicks has also moved on, and in a pinch he had received reps at tailback.
That’s why the staff has talked about moving another player to tailback, at least on a part-time basis.
“It’s tough, guys,” Smart said on Saturday. “We’ve got a problem there. We’ve got a deficiency there. We’ve gotta hope that Nick gets healthy.”
The depth should be better this summer, even if Chubb isn’t 100 percent. Douglas should be, and four-star recruit Elijah Holyfield joins the fold, giving the team four healthy scholarship tailbacks, five if you count Chubb. (Turman could read the depth chart as easily as anyone, and he wanted a chance to be one of the featured backs, and didn’t want to just be depth at Georgia.)
But that’s the summer. The spring is the immediate concern for Smart, who pointed out that Holyfield was in attendance at Saturday’s practice.
“So he’s quite aware that there’s a sense of urgency there,” Smart said. “He’s done a good job of coming over and trying to watch as much as he can, so he can be prepared.”