The good news out of Georgia’s spring practices is that tailback Keith Marshall is “a lot further along” than running backs coach Bryan McClendon expected in coming back from knee surgery.
Although he’s not participating in any full-contact plays, Marshall is going through the running drills and practicing hard, like he doesn’t want to take that possible medical redshirt that the coaching staff’s been considering if the back isn’t fully recovered by the start of preseason camp in August.
On the one hand, having the Dogs’ one-two punch of Todd Gurley and Marshall back together leading a loaded running back corps sounds like the best possible outcome for Mike Bobo’s offense, especially with an offensive line that might still be trying to gel as the season starts.
But with Brendan Douglas back and talented five-star recruits Sony Michel and Nick Chubb coming in this summer, there are some Bulldog observers who wonder if the program might not be better served by Marshall taking that redshirt year. After all, it would give him more time to get stronger and would provide class separation between him and Gurley, who might well leave for the NFL after this season.
Right now, McClendon said, “the plan is to see how far along he is, and then do what’s going to be best for him. That’s priority number one. We’re going to do what’s best for him. That way everybody will be able to sleep good at night.”
If Marshall’s not 100 percent by August, the redshirt would appear to be the best option for both player and team. But if he’s ready to go, should there be any consideration to holding him out a year?
If you were the Georgia coaching staff, what would you do with a healthy Marshall — play him or save him?
RANKING THE SEC COACHES
Athlon Sports has come up with its ranking of SEC football coaches for 2014, noting that “wins are a telling and important statistic, but they don’t provide a complete picture of how successful coaches are. Winning 10 games at Alabama is different than winning 10 games at Kentucky.”
The idea, they say, is if you start a program from scratch, which coach would you hire?
Not surprisingly, Alabama’s Nick Saban ranks No. 1 on Athlon’s list, followed by South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier, whose Gamecocks have been remarkably consistent over the past four years. At No. 3 is fast-rising Gus Malzahn of Auburn, who’s only been a head coach at the FBS level two years. And then at No. 4 is UGA’s Mark Richt, a spot ahead of LSU’s Les Miles (which might raise an eyebrow or two).
Says Athlon: “Richt has experienced his share of ups and downs in Athens, but he has been one of the nation’s most consistent coaches since his hire in 2001. Over the last 13 years, Georgia has averaged 9.7 wins a season under Richt. Additionally, the Bulldogs have recorded three top-five finishes in the final Associated Press poll and claimed at least a share of the East Division title six times. The only thing missing on Richt’s resume is a national championship. The Bulldogs have not played in a BCS bowl since the 2007 season, but the new playoff format should help this team, especially with more spots in elite bowls open to the SEC. Also, the addition of former Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is an upgrade over previous defensive play-caller Todd Grantham, which should bolster Richt’s chances of winning a SEC title in the next few years.”
After that, the rest of the Top 10 goes like this: Missouri’s Gary Pinkel, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin, Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen and Tennessee’s Butch Jones. Then comes Florida’s Will Muschamp, Arkansas’ Bret Bielema, Kentucky’s Mark Stoops and Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason, who will be in his first season at the school this year.
I know the small but vocal contingent of Bulldog fans who loathe Richt and think he’s what’s holding back the UGA program will argue he’s ranked way too high. Personally, I think Athlon has him in about the right spot, though I question Malzahn being as high as he is after one season at Auburn and think perhaps the Mad Hatter should be higher. What do you think?
GREATEST GEORGIA BULLDOGS?
Another ranking worth discussing is Sporting News’ list of the 10 greatest Georgia Bulldogs football players.
Of course, as SN notes, “With Georgia, all you need is one name: Herschel. The Heisman Trophy-winning running back is the game’s greatest and everyone who watched him knew it.”
No argument there. But the rest of the list behind Herschel Walker has some interesting choices. After UGA’s other Heisman winner, Frank Sinkwich, at No. 2, the list then goes like this: 3. David Pollack, 4. David Greene, 5. Charley Trippi, 6. Bill Stanfill, 7. Champ Bailey, 8. Terry Hoage, 9. Jake Scott and 10. Kevin Butler.
My immediate reaction was disbelief that Pollack and Greene were ranked ahead of Trippi, who some folks think ranks at least even with Sinkwich, if not ahead of him. After all, he’s in both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is regarded by many as the greatest all-around athlete ever to play at UGA.
And no Fran Tarkenton??!! Looks like a bit of a generational thing going there with whoever compiled the list, having Pollack and Greene that high.
I also think two-way iron man Bailey (another candidate for UGA’s greatest athlete) should be higher on the list. And while Greenie is one of my all-time favorite Bulldogs, a good case can be made (and I made it a few weeks ago) that Aaron Murray should rank ahead of him now among Georgia quarterbacks.
And if you’re going to stipulate that a kicker has to make the list, you can’t do better than Butler, but should he really rank ahead of the likes of Garrison Hearst, Hines Ward, A.J. Green, Knowshon Moreno and Scott Woerner?
What do you think of the Sporting News list? Who would you rank higher or lower? Who’s on the list but shouldn’t be, and who was overlooked?
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg