ATHENS – Nick Chubb and his fellow star tailback Sony Michel are the most known of known quantities on Georgia’s football team. So it’s not exactly a state secret that they’ve been held back a bit this spring, in favor of the younger tailbacks.
Not that Chubb wanted to come out and say so.
“We’ve been available,” Chubb said. “We’ve caught a lot of balls.”
It was an interesting choice of words, considering the two are runners, not receivers. But a big emphasis during spring practice has been to change that.
Michel is definitely becoming a bigger part of the passing game, or at least that’s the aim. He’s one of the players who has been practicing with the other slot guys during practice, along with tailback Brian Herrien.
Chubb has tended to remain with the tailbacks, where his more physical rushing style is the most useful. But the star tailback has shown before that he can also be useful in the passing game.
It was just awhile ago.
Back when he was a freshman, Chubb caught 18 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns. That was when he was Todd Gurley’s understudy the first five games, then the starter the rest of the way. But Chubb only caught nine passes the next two years, including five last year, when he played in every game.
So when Georgia looks at ways to improve an offense that’s been lackluster over those two years, there’s one way.
“His big roadblock has been to really work on catching the ball out of the backfield even better, and becoming a weapon that way,” head coach Kirby Smart said of Chubb. “He’s done a good job of that the last two scrimmages.”
The third one comes Saturday, on G-Day, the one that fans and the media will watch. Will they see Chubb doing much?
“That’s coach’s decision. I don’t know,” Chubb said, grinning. “I’ll be out there ready.”
It’s a nice change from this time last year, when Chubb was still working his way back from significant knee surgery.
“He’s a different guy this spring compared to last spring, just for obvious reasons,” Smart said. “But I think that you know more about last fall by what you see this spring out of Nick that he’s a lot closer to 100 percent. He’s certainly got a lot more burst and power.”
It may be that rising sophomores Herrien and Elijay Holyfield get featured a bit more on Saturday than they will during the season. And it also may be that fans see very little of what Georgia actually plans to do with the tailbacks in the passing game. The Bulldogs don’t want to advertise every new wrinkle they plan.
But there hasn’t been much hiding the intention of involving the tailbacks in the passing game.
“I think a lot of us running backs have been used in a lot more positions, including where we have to catch the ball a lot more,” Chubb said. “So I haven’t shied away from it at all. I’m out there trying to do what I can.”
So what does he bring?
“I can do it too, but those guys are probably the best backs to do it,” Chubb said. “But I can go out there, I can run, I can catch the ball.”