February 7, 2012

Marshall not afraid

It's a question Keith Marshall figures he's been asked 100 times - why did he come to Georgia, a school where there figures to be plenty of competition to determine the starting running back this fall?

His answer his simple.

"Competition makes you better," Marshall shrugged. "Any school you go to, they're going to try and recruit the best players, so you can't worry about who's going to be coming in."

Position coach Bryan McClendon couldn't agree more.

"I think it will help everybody. Competition brings out the best in everybody, and the same with depth," McClendon said. "Depth is going to allow you to stay healthy, and stay fresh with the guys who do end up working themselves in position to play. I think it's going to help because everybody is going to have to be on their A-game, no matter what."

That goes for everybody involved.

Despite earning Freshman All-SEC honors, Isaiah Crowell's first year in the Red and Black was a frustrating one for the Columbus native, suspended for a game for breaking team rules, not to mention an ankle injury that plagued him throughout the year.

Rest has given Crowell the needed time to heal, but there are still no guarantees when it comes to who gets the bulk of the carries this fall.

It appears to be a wide-open battle. Ken Malcome started the final three games for Georgia, which also has Richard Samuel, Carlton Thomas and Brandon Harton back for another year.

Come August, freshman Todd Gurley will also join the fold, giving the Bulldogs what on paper anyway, has the potential of being the deepest backfield in the Mark Richt-era at UGA.

Marshall, one of the Bulldogs' three early enrollees, is ready to do his part.

"I'm definitely excited to be getting acclimated to college life, get used to that, but also get my body ready to compete," said the 5-11 Marshall, who is already up to 201 pounds.

Gurley, who will arrive with the rest of Georgia's freshmen in June, will get his opportunity as well.

"Todd's a great player," Marshall said. "He's a bigger guy than me, around 210. I may be faster, but he may be more of a between-the-tackle guy. I think we'll feed off each other."

But McClendon says don't let Marshall fool you.

From what he's seen, the Raleigh, N.C. native has shown the knack for being an adept inside runner himself.

"I think you're going to see two guys who are very effective running between the tackles,"McClendon said. "They both run with great pad level; they've got great instinct and vision. I think we got the two best out there."

Rivals.com recruiting analyst Mike Farrell agrees.

Farrell believes Georgia signed the 'best combo of running backs' in the entire country and sees both players making an impact with the Bulldogs this fall.

But McClendon disagrees with the notion that the speedy Marshall is a player whose best work will come running in space.

"When I evaluate players, I don't go by what somebody else thinks, I go by what I see," McClendon said. "When I went to see Keith, I saw this guy who had 25 runs and 21 were between the tackles. He ended up with almost 200 yards. That's what I saw. The thing is, you see guys, and people always judge those things of size. But what I've seen, he came in 199 pounds, which obviously is great with the speed and everything else he has. I think he's an every-down back who can do everything we're going to ask him to do."

There's no disputing Marshall's speed.

At Millbrook High, Marshall said he was timed at 4.22 in the 40 and at 4.25 in one of the college camps he attended while still in school. His GPA at Millbrook was 4.31.

It was that speed, however, that caught the attention of teammate Malcolm Mitchell when he challenged Marshall to an impromptu best-of-three races recently at the Woodruff Practice Facility

Marshall won the challenge 2-1.

"It was his idea," Marshall said. "I saw where some people say I challenged him, but we were working out, running routes and we started talking about who's faster, so we went outside and raced."

McClendon thinks Marshall's competitive nature will serve both he and Gurley well.

"They're both competitive guys, they're guys who love to compete, it doesn't matter what it is," McClendon said. "But they're smart guys, guys who want to do it right, they're very conscientious and normally when you group that with a talent base, I think they'll be good players."