ATHENS — Sony Michel has the least amount of game experience among the four Georgia running backs. Yet he is No. 2 on the depth chart — behind only Heisman candidate Nick Chubb.
Michel suffered a shoulder injury in the first half of last season’s Tennessee game and re-injured it in spring practice, limiting his playing time and practice reps. Now healthy, Michel enters his sophomore season ready to contribute in a backfield that doesn’t lack for talent.
“Sony’s always been good since he’s been here,” sophomore tailback Nick Chubb said. “He’s always [given] it his all in practice. He’s just dealt with injury, things like that. But I think Sony’s gonna have a great year this year, along with Keith (Marshall).”
The Chubb-Michel storyline heading into the season opener is reminiscent of the Todd Gurley-Marshall story one year ago: the Heisman hopeful and the injured high school standout.
Where Chubb has developed a workhorse reputation, Michel is recognized as a versatile player that can take direct snaps and make catches out of the backfield.
“I know Sony, he can do about everything on the field,” Chubb said. “He’s on special teams, he’s been at wideout. I don’t know, he could run the ball, he could power-back, everything. He’s a complete back. I think we complement each other well. He can go out there and wiggle around, I can go through you.”
Michel spent time on the kickoff team last season and despite his growing importance on offense once again tried out for every special teams unit during preseason camp.
“He makes tackles,” receiver Malcolm Mitchell said, laughing. “He blocks, runs the ball, catches the ball, runs routes. Sony’s probably one of the most versatile players on the team. I believe you could put him on defense and he would do that.”
As with Marshall — and the running back position in general — health has been and will be the biggest concern for Michel.
In the abbreviated playing time he had last season, Michel ran for 410 yards and five touchdowns.
His signature game came against Troy when he scored three touchdowns. He suffered his shoulder injury the following week.
“I’ve always said Sony is probably one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen,” Mitchell said. “Or just somebody to play football, in general, regardless of where you put him.”
Running backs coach Thomas Brown has said that he will use a rotation of the four tailbacks, which includes Keith Marshall and Brendan Douglas sharing the No. 3 spot. But at practices between games, Brown challenges the players to “push each other. It’s a competition.”
Especially between Chubb and Michel.
“We don’t really talk about it. We just go out there and make good plays, and work hard,” Chubb said. “But we know he’s looking at me and that I’m looking at him.”