JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It got to the point where Sony Michel just had to walk away. Michel had a practice to get to on Monday, and Nick Chubb, who doesn’t, was messing with Michel and “just getting on my nerves.”
“All he wants to do is play,” Michel said, in mock disgust.
And all Georgia fans want, along with Kirby Smart, Jim Chaney and others who will be around in 2016, is for Chubb to play too.
In the meantime, there remains one game left for this season, and the only tailback with one foot in this and next season appears to be Michel.
Chubb, the star sophomore, has been out since early October after knee surgery.
Top backup Keith Marshall is a senior who is playing his final game for Georgia on Saturday, against Penn State in the Taxslayer Bowl. Brendan Douglas, who had been the other top backup, is out for the game with an injury. So is Quayvon Hicks, a senior fullback who had been getting tailback snaps in practice.
And, by the way, the man leading the tailbacks in practice is also on the way out: Thomas Brown will join Mark Richt’s Miami staff next week.
Michel was asked Monday if that part of it – being coached by someone who won’t be his coach next year – offered a different dynamic.
“We know who he is, and what he stands for, so it’s not really weird,” Michel said. “It’s more funny than anything. But it’s just part of the game.”
Brown told his players about the Miami job the last day of Athens bowl practice, last Tuesday, so they’ve had awhile to get used to it. Plus, the tailbacks have gotten used to change: Brown was only in his first year.
So whoever is hired will be Michel and Chubb’s third position coach in as many years.
“The focus doesn’t change, we just carry that over to the next coach,” Michel said. “Whatever he teaches us we just keep grinding.”
In the meantime, Brown is still teaching this week, in preparation for a game where Michel is set to get a very heavy workload.
Perhaps Marshall will finally see a big role, but that’s been said before and hasn’t happened. It also doesn’t appear that anyone behind him is set for extensive carries.
A.J. Turman, the sophomore, was running with the fourth team during the media viewing period of Monday’s practice. In fact he was running behind third-teamer Tae Crowder, a freshman who has yet to play this season and would burn his redshirt in the last game if he played Saturday.
Penn State is statistically more vulnerable to the run; the Nittany Lions ranked eighth in the Big Ten in rushing defense, and third against the pass. That, along with Georgia’s well-documented passing struggles, would indicate a heavy running game.
And thus a heavy dose of Michel.
“That’s part of playing football and coming to a school like Georgia. You’ve gotta expect things like that to happen. When coach calls your numbers to make plays or carry the load I’ve got to,” Michel said.
Everything that’s happened this year has obscured how vital Michel has ended up being to the team: Michel has 1,076 rushing yards this season, and that’s with only starting six games. He is also the team’s third-leading receiver, with 25 catches for 270 yards.
There are only two Bulldogs with more than one touchdown catch this season: Malcolm Mitchell (with four) and Michel (with three).
“I’ve got a great group of guys with me on offense that’s going to help me. And we’re just gonna do the job together,” Michel said.