ATHENS — You’d never know anything was ever wrong with Nick Chubb by looking at him now. He’s wearing no braces or wraps. There is no limping or gimpiness in his gait. Perhaps it’s just because everybody in spring practice has been running around in shorts and helmets so far, but he looks quick and sleek as he carries the football down the field.
That’s not necessarily how he looked last year. There were times we thought we saw the old Nick Chubb, namely that 222-yard, opening game performance against North Carolina. But a lot of other times he looked — dare we say? — ordinary.
Of course, if he did, there was good reason for it. Chubb was, after all, less than a year removed from major knee reconstruction and he suffered the dreaded “high-ankle” sprain in the fourth game of the season.
Chubb was asked Saturday after the Bulldogs’ third spring practice just how hurt he was last year.
“I wasn’t hurt,” Chubb insisted. “It’s just kind of different. I don’t know. I wasn’t hurt at all. I don’t know how to explain it. Maybe range of motion? Being able to move more, move quicker and better laterally. I think it was mental.”
Whatever the case, Chubb’s junior season was the least productive of his career. He averaged 5 yards per carry — compared to 7.1 as a freshman and 8.1 as a sophomore — and surpassed 100 yards only four times in 13 games. However, he did manage to go over 1,000 yards for the season with 1,130 and enters his unlikely senior season No. 2 on Georgia’s all-time career rushing chart with 3,424 yards.
As long as there are no setbacks, it looks like Chubb will add significantly to that total this season. The Bulldogs certainly don’t appear to be easing their star back into the spring practices.
Chubb and position mate Sony Michel are exchanging reps with the No. 1 offense. Both of them are very active in the passing game as well, often lining up and running slots.
Chubb looks good while doing it all, at times planting hard and cutting up field on the left knee that made so many people shudder when it buckled backward in October of 2015.
“He’s been looking good,” senior offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn said. “Not only him, but all our running backs. It’s good just to see all those boys healthy.”
If Chubb looks sleeker, that’s because he is. After playing last season at 232, he said he’s currently weighing in at 226.
“I feel great,” Chubb said. “Having last season under my belt and just having time off from the season to prepare my body and get in better shape, get faster, quicker, stronger, I feel a lot better.”
It makes sense. As Chubb pointed out, “this time last year I was hopping around on crutches.
“Now I’m running with my team during spring and have a lot more repetitions running and moving around,” he said. “I talked to (former UGA and NFL tailback) Robert Edwards and he said the first year would be hard, but the second year you’ll be back to normal. I see that coming into play.”
The biggest surprise is not that Chubb appears to be back to 100 percent, but that he’s back at Georgia. Very few would have predicted his return to college with the lure of the NFL so close.
He said he’ll watch the NFL draft next month, but insist he won’t be anymore interested than usual.
“I watch it every year,” Chubb said. “There’s nothing different about that, nothing’s going to change. I understand I could’ve went out, but it’s no big deal.”
As unfathomable as it might seem to a lot of folks, supplanting the other-worldly Herschel Walker on the all-time rushing list is not beyond the realm if possibility. It would require 1,836 yards, which would be just shy of Walker’s school and SEC mark (1,891) for the most ever rushed for in a single season.
That’s a pretty unlikely scenario given Georgia’s philosophy — and that of most teams in this day and age — of load-sharing in the backfield. But, hey, one has to dream. Right?
“Yeah, it’s a long shot, but things happen for a reason,” Chubb said, laughing. “I mean, it’d be nice but, I don’t know, that’s a hard one.”
Georgia will gladly take whatever it can get.
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