Georgia preseason depth chart preview: Running backs

Sony Michel (1) and Nick Chubb (27) back during happier, less-injured times.

Let’s start this post out with some “inside baseball.” Or, more appropriately, “inside this series designed to kill time before preseason practice starts.”

This series began with the two biggest conversation pieces so we could get them out of the way, then move on to the rest of the position groups, leading up to the start of practice in August … when of course the quarterback and tailback situations will once again take center stage.

This way, we at least get a week talking about other stuff.

Maybe.

Is there anything else we can say about the tailback situation? Well we tried that yesterday with the quarterbacks, and for one I think we pulled that off admirably. So let’s try again.

TAILBACKS

  • Returning starters: Nick Chubb, Jr., and Sony Michel, Jr.
  • Top competition: Chubb’s knee and Michel’s arm.
  • The rest: Brendan Douglas, Sr.; Shaquery Wilson, Soph.; Tae Crowder, R-Fr.; Elijah Holyfield, Fr.; Brian Herrien, Fr.
  • The skinny: Contrary to how it may seem, Georgia is not left completely without a running game if neither Chubb or Michel can play, or are limited. Douglas, as underwhelming as he may seem to many fans, can get the job done if the blocking is good, and can occasionally run over a defender. Holyfield has long-term upside, and has short-term use if he can at least learn a few plays. Wilson, the converted receiver, and Crowder, who had a good spring, are both athletic. That said … yeah, Georgia badly needs either Chubb or Michel to be ready, and at this point it’s likely that Chubb will be. Michel’s broken left arm puts him questionable, at best, for North Carolina. So then this becomes the question: Can Chubb be a workhorse back? That sounds overly optimistic. But can Chubb start, carry it in the rage of 12-15 times, with Douglas, Holyfield and perhaps others filling in the rest? That sounds doable. This of course assumes that Chubb handles preseason practice well enough to be cleared for the opener. It also assumes Michel sits out, which we don’t know yet. It also assumes another tailback doesn’t get struck by lightning, which we don’t know yet.
  • Prediction: Chubb starts against North Carolina. There, I’ve moved to that position, after saying for months that he would just get his feet wet in the opener, which itself may have been optimistic. But Michel’s injury has ramped up the timetable, and while I would still bet that Chubb’s carries are limited in the opener, we’ve learned at this point to discount Chubb at our own peril. Plus, I personally watched Chubb play dodgeball, and he looked fine.

FULLBACKS

  • Returning starter: Christian Payne, Jr.
  • Top competition: Glenn Welch, Jr.
  • The rest: Nick Moore, Soph.; Turner Forton, R-Fr.; Kyle LeStrange, Sr.
  • The skinny: Everyone listed is a walk-on. Kirby Smart may not be a fullback guy, but it’s still an officially-listed position on the roster, and it will still be used in the offense. But don’t be surprised if one of the many talented tight ends spends time in a role that’s similar to fullback, at least in some packages. Whether they call it an H-back or not, we’ll see. When a pure fullback is utilized, it’s almost certainly going to be either Payne or Welch, and Welch appeared to get most of the first team reps in the spring. The coaches appear to like his size (he’s got two inches and about 10 pounds on Payne.)
  • Prediction: Welch and Payne come close to an even split on snaps at fullback, but like last year don’t see many touches. Here’s also hoping that LeStrange sees some action, because that’s a cool last name.

Next up: Receivers and tight ends.

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