CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Add Elijah Hood to the growing list of people who believe Nick Chubb will play in Georgia’s opener against North Carolina.
Who is Elijah Hood, you ask?
Why he is a tailback himself, and a pretty darn good one at that. Hood is the star who dots the I in the Tar Heels’ backfield, a rising junior who rushed for more than 1,400 yards last season. He hopes to go for more this year, starting with that Chick-fil-A Kickoff matchup against the Bulldogs on Sept. 3 in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome.
He’s also quite familiar with Chubb. The two of them played together in the U.S. Army All-American game three years ago in San Antonio.
“So I kind of know him,” Hood said after the Tar Heels practice Thursday on the UNC campus. “And knowing Nick Chubb, he’s going to be out there. That guy he can play, he’s a baller and he’s a tough dude. I’ve seen him play personally and I know what he can do. He’s going to find a way on that field.”
Hood will be on that field as well, and that’s a good thing for North Carolina. With the graduation of quarterback Marquise Williams, he is their undisputed No. 1 offensive weapon.
Not that there was much to dispute last season. As a sophomore, the 6-foot, 220-pound native of Charlotte carried the football 219 times for 1,463 yards and 17 touchdowns. That was third among ACC rushers but represented the second-highest single-season total in Carolina history behind only Don McCauley’s 1,720 yards in 1970. Hood’s 6.7 yards per carry ranked second in the UNC single-season record book behind only the great Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice (7.2 in 1946).
So, obviously, Hood was a big reason the Tar Heels went 11-3 and won the ACC’s Coastal Division. And not only does he mean a lot to his team like Chubb, he’s also dealing with an injury.
Hood had offseason shoulder surgery. It was minor, and if it’s holding him back no one would never know it.
In practice, Hood is wearing an orange jersey, which signifies non-contact status in the Tar Heels’ camp. But he’s still dressed out in full pads and taking every rep with the first-team offense. On Thursday, Hood didn’t come off the field until the team went into 11-on-11 scrimmage situations at the end of the day.
“They always find a way to make sure I’m getting the work in,” Hood said with a laugh. “I’m getting a lot of reps, making sure I finish downfield, and staying in shape. Overall, the recovery is going well. Just trying to get my strength back basically. I’m done with all the rehab and stuff. Just making sure I stay healthy and get through the spring and make sure I’m ready for the preseason.”
Said UNC coach Larry Fedora: “No, I promise you Elijah is working as hard as anybody else out there on the field. You don’t ever have to worry about that with him, I assure you.”
No, this former Eagle Scout has a spotless reputation with his coaches and teammates, much like that tailback down Georgia’s way. Hood is known here for his intense work ethic and meticulous attention to detail.
That’s important because Hood’s intention is not to match his production of a year ago, but to surpass it. And with eight off 11 starters coming back on offense, and all but one lineman, the thought is that he can.
“I don’t want to do it again; I want to do it better,” Hood said. “That’s always your mentality as an athlete. You try too push yourself and see how far you can go. You think, if you did this much this year, if you work a little bit harder, do an extra rep, study a little more film, how far can you go? You’re always trying to improve yourself and take yourself to the next level. I don’t feel any pressure. My only option is to keep working as hard as I can and see how far I can go.”
Hood looks and sounds a lot like some other tailbacks that have come out of this state. Georgia signed two of them in recent years. Keith Marshall is from just up the road in Raleigh. Todd Gurley hailed from Tarboro.
“I’m familiar with their tailback tradition,” Hood said. “I don’t know those guys personally. I just know they’re from the state of North Carolina. I guess there’s something about our state and running backs. We just crank them out.”
Count Elijah Hood as one more to keep an eye on.
G-Day, Georgia’s annual spring football scrimmage, is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 16, at Sanford Stadium. Check back here daily for DawgNation’s G-Day coverage brought to you by Georgia United Credit Union.