ATHENS – Ken Malcome is back on the team.
Just 24 hours after meeting with Georgia coach Mark Richt to ask for a transfer, the big, bruising running back from Decatur was back to ask for a reinstatement on Thursday. It was granted, just as Richt said he would do the previous night.
“If Ken came to me tomorrow and said, ‘Coach, I lost my mind and I’m sorry and I’d love to come back and compete here at Georgia,’ I’d hug his neck and say ‘come on,’” Richt said after Wednesday’s practice.
That’s apparently just what happened. Malcome’s return was announced in a brief release from UGA Sports Communications Thursday afternoon: “Ken Malcome, who indicated to Coach Richt Wednesday he wanted to transfer, has requested and been granted a return to the team.”
Malcome’s reversal was not a major surprise. Richt seemed to be imploring Malcome to return through his comments to the press after announcing his decision to transfer:
“What happens is, most everybody we recruit was probably the best player on the team or the one of the best players on their team. Just by virtue of the fact they were that talented, they showed up wanting to play. Now I’m not saying that’s the case. There’s a lot of guys with tremendous work ethic. But whether they work hard or don’t ‘t work hard, some of these guys are just flat out better and they play. And then [players] get into a situation where they get around other athletes like them and now you have to compete. Learning how to do that is very difficult sometimes. Some guys will see the mountain as too high to climb and then decided to go somewhere else. And that’s fine, if that’s what’s going on. I want all these guys to get an opportunity to play. I want all these guys to get an opportunity to get their education. But I think there’s some value in fighting for you job.”
Richt said he is constantly hearing from players who are considering transferring or quitting football. Three-time All-American David Pollack was one.
“A lot of guys will feel that way. You hear it a lot, ‘I’m thinking about going.’ And then they stay; and then they compete; and then they get bigger, stronger; and then they get more seniority and there’s freshmen behind them going through the same thing. Other guys might transfer or graduate and then, all the sudden, there they are, they’re playing. And they’re so thankful they stayed around and saw it through.
“I’ll never forget David Pollack coming into my office as a freshman during camp. He was down. He said, ‘I can’t do anything right. Coach Garner’s all over me. I think I might have made a mistake. I don’t know if I can play here.’ Pollack’s the most decorated player in the history of Georgia football and he had those doubts, too. So it’s hard to all of the sudden compete at a level you just never had to.
“I’m not saying these guys are bad kids at all. It’s just that sometimes it comes as a shock to them and instead of fighting they choose to move on. There’s a bunch of good kids that decide to do that.”
Coaches said Malcome missed practices Tuesday and Wednesday because of a “stomach bug.” He has had one carry for zero yards to this point and did not make the travel roster for Ole Miss last weekend.
An all-state player at Southwest DeKalb High, Malcome (6-0, 221) was expected to step to the forefront this season with Georgia’s attrition at tailback. But after Washaun Ealey and Caleb King exited the program, Malcome fell behind true freshman Isaiah Crowell, junior Carlton Thomas, linebacker convert Richard Samuel and former walkon Brandon Harton on the depth chart in preseason camp.
There was no such reversal of fortune for cornerback Derek Owens. Richt also announced Wednesday that the sophomore from Jacksonville was seeking a transfer.
That means 14 players have left Georgia since the end of last season with eligibility remaining. That includes NFL early draftees A.J. Green and Justin Houston and medical retirees Jeremy Longo and Tanner Strickland.
Richt acknowledged that the rate of attrition is greater than usual. Asked if that was due to more demands within the program or fewer opportunties due to a lot of freshmen earning playing time, he said: “Probably a little of both.”
But the turnover does not seem to have Richt overly concerned. “All it’s going to do is allow us to sign a full boat of recruits again, which will be a positive thing if we bring in the right guys,” he said.
Richt was asked if having to deal with player transfers this week was distracting as the Bulldogs prepare for a major SEC showdown with Mississippi State.
“No,” he said. “It comes with the territory. It hasn’t hurt my preparation. All my film study, all the decisions help the staff make, that’s already been done. It has not kept me from doing my job this week.”
|– Chip Towers