Q&A WITH KEITH MARSHALL
Lost in all the craziness of last week’s national signing day drama and shocking player dismissals was the introduction of Georgia’s three early enrollees. Quarterback Faton Bauta, offensive lineman Mark Beard and tailback Keith Marshall had been shielded from interviews by UGA since arriving in Athens to begin spring semester in early January. But the three players were made available on the afternoon of national signing day. I’ll be sharing a little about each of them in a story that will run in Tuesday’s printed edition. In the meantime, I don’t think there is any question that Marshall, the five-star tailback from Raleigh, N.C. , is one of the most anticipated addition of the early enrollees and really of the entire 2012 class. So here’s some of what I heard from him this past Wednesday.
Q: What are some of the advantages of early enrollment?
A: “I get to acclimate to college life before the season and physically I can get myself ready to compete. . . . I’ve never had to block that much so I’m glad I got here early so I can learn that. I’ve already learned the basic schemes, but that’s different than actually going out there and doing it live. It’s something I’ll have to work on for sure.”
Q: Obviously fellow North Carolina tailback Todd Gurley signed with the Bulldogs. What’s your thoughts on that?
A: “I think he’s a great player. He’s going to make me better and hopefully I can make him better. Hopefully we’ll feed off each other and the other running backs, too. We have plenty of good running backs here. We can all make each other better. It’s like Coach Richt says, you have to have more than one good running back.”
Q: It’s unusual for two running back prospects as highly touted as you two to sign at the same school. What kind of relationship do you have with him and what was the thinking behind going to the same school?
A: “Me and Todd are both from North Carolina. I met him through track, actually. But through recruiting I got to know him real well. He’s probably one of the closest people I met during recruiting. Playing with him is going to be great. He’s somebody I know and we’re from the same city and all that. We’re going to help each other get better.”
Q: Did Isaiah Crowell send you a bouquet of flowers or an email message or anything upon the news of your plans to join the team?
A: “No, no. I talked to him the day before I committed just to find out what he thought about everything. He was supportive.”
Q: With you and Gurley and Crowell and all the other backs Georgia has coming back, tailback is suddenly a pretty crowded position. Does that concern you?
A: “I’m not worried about competition. People say ‘competition’ like it’s a bad thing. Competition is not a bad thing; it’s a good thing.”
Q: You and offensive tackle John Theus are the only 5-star prospects in this class. Was his commitment an incentive to join the Bulldogs?
A: “I’m excited about running behind him. We went through recruiting together. We were looking at some of the same schools, so he didn’t really have to recruit me that much. He knew this was one of my main schools. I’m looking forward to playing with him.”
Q: You’re from the middle of ACC country. Were you lured by the opportunity to play SEC football?
A: “It wasn’t so much the SEC. I’ve just liked Georgia since I was younger. Coach [Mark] Richt, of course I wanted to play for him. And I’ve always liked Knowshon Moreno, since I was in like middle school. Whenever it was he played against Hawaii (January 2008) in that game, ever since then I wanted to come here.”
Q: How aware are you of the tailback tradition at UGA?
A: “I know a lot about the history of running backs, not just here, but everywhere. Obviously there’s Herschel, but I can name a lot of the running backs that went here. I have the Herschel documentary in my room.”
Q: You have achieved an almost a mythical status because of the stories of your academic and athletic achievements. Can you validate the legend of possessing the rare combination of a grade-point average that exceeds your 40-yard-dash time?
A: “The fastest I’ve ever timed in the 40 was a 4.22 at my school; I ran a 4.25 at a college camp. My GPA I graduated with was a 4.31, somewhere right in there.”
Q: Tell me about the 40-yard dash challenge between you and wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell in which you beat him two of three times. How’d that come about?
A: “Actually it was his idea. I’ve seen people say I challenged him; it wasn’t anything like that. We were working out and running routes or whatever and we got to talking about who was faster, so we went outside and raced. . . . All the guys thought he was going to win, so it was kind of a cool feeling. My teammates liked it but it wasn’t that big of a deal to me.”
Q: You were a champion sprinter in high school. Do you plan to run track while at Georgia?
A: “Maybe in the future. Not this year. I want to get established in football first.”
– Chip Towers