Probably the most notable thing about Saturday’s 9-6 win over Missouri is it represented the starting debut of sophomore Sony Michel at tailback. Facing one of the SEC’s stingiest defenses and battling groin and hip flexor injuries to boot, Michel managed to eke out 100 total yards, including 87 rushing on 26 carries.
It was a strange game for the 5-10, 208-pound sophomore because he disappeared to the locker room in the middle of Georgia’s first possession after having just three carries.
“I had to get warmed up,” said Michel, who now has 515 yards rushing on the season. “My hips, my groin were kind of tight. It was just a precaution. I knew I was coming back.”
Michel was disappointed not to “bust one” against the Tigers. His longest run from scrimmage was 10 yards. But he left the game with his confidence intact despite the unspectacular debut.
“(Missouri’s tough defense) is something we were prepared for,” he said. “All our backs are prepared to fill that starting role. We all work so hard that it’s really no different being a backup or a starter. We all get reps and we’re all prepared for that.”
Michel is expected to get a lot of rest during the bye week. The Bulldogs actually returned to the practice fields Monday evening to review the Missouri game. They’re off on Tuesday, then will return to Woodruff Practice Fields on Wednesday and Thursday for what’s expected to be physical, back-to-basics workouts. They’ll then be given the weekend off to rest.
“The bye week will be huge,” Michel said. “We’ll get everybody healed up and we’ll be ready to roll.”
As for Georgia’s other tailbacks, Richt was asked on his Sunday teleconference call for further explanation on the decision to utilize Brendan Douglas earlier and more often than Keith Marshall in the role of Michel’s primary backup.
“The tailback usage was ‘all part of the plan,’” said Richt, without further elaboration.
Translation: It’s the job of running backs coach Thomas Brown to assess the relative abilities and state of readiness for each of his charges. UGA released a depth chart before the Missouri game that listed Marshall as the backup to Michel and no other names were listed. But that clearly didn’t come directly from Brown.
Douglas finished with 24 yards rushing on nine carries and two carries for 15 yards. Marshall had five carries for 24 yards and one reception for a loss of one yard.
Another wrinkle that received some mention prior to the Missouri game was full-time fullback Quayvon Hicks getting reps at tailback in practice. Hicks did get into the game on Saturday, but he did not have a carry or a reception and none of his snaps came at tailback.
“Quayvon’s (work at tailback) was mostly to provide depth in case we needed (him),” Richt said.
Hicks, a 6-foot-2, 260-pound senior, does not have a rushing attempt this season. He has caught three passes for 34 yards, an average of 11.3 per reception.
Expect Hicks to get some more chances before his career is through. He enters the eighth game of his senior season with an average of 9.1 yards per touch on 19 runs and nine catches.