ATHENS – This past summer, Ken Malcome said he hoped Georgia fans would call him by his hometown nickname of “Boo.” Less than a year later, Malcome has put the kibosh on that.
“I actually kind of stopped that,” Malcome said this past week. “Next year if I have a good year, I’ll let people call me that. I figured I haven’t done anything so I don’t deserve to be called Boo yet. I’ve told everybody just to call me Ken for now.”
Silly as it may seem, such a proclamation is just another sign of the tremendous growth in maturity the Bulldogs are observing in Malcome. The soon-to-be redshirt sophomore from Decatur started at tailback for the No. 1 offense in the G-Day Game this past Saturday. Not even six months before that, Malcome sat in coach Mark Richt’s office informing him of his intention to transfer due to a lack of playing time and general unhappiness.
“I don’t know for sure how he’s going to finish, but he’s on a great track right now,” Richt said of Malcome after the G-Day Game. “It does my heart good to see guys that are struggling, that don’t think they can make it, that maybe make a mistake that’s foolish and they just think it’s over. And then they stick it out; they decide to do it ‘the Georgia way;’ and then all of the sudden you see how good a guy can be; and then you all of the sudden you see him get confidence and you’re happy for them.
“Ken has really blossomed for us, as a football player and as a student and as a person. I’m just real happy for him.”
It’s hard to ignore Malcome’s progress. Here’s what has happened with him since deciding to quit the team the week before the Mississippi State game in late September:
Accordingly, Malcome didn’t turn in a jaw-dropping performance in the G-Day Game, totaling 32 yards on 8 carries. But he scored two touchdowns and Malcome’s work came against a stout No. 1 Georgia defense. He did a lot of small things well, which continued to draw the praise of coaches and teammates.
“Ken Malcome ran hard and ran through some tackles on both touchdown runs,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “It’s hard to get any running room when you’re using 21 personnel groupings and doing different things with your tight ends and fullbacks. But I saw some creases, I saw him run the ball hard and make some guys miss.”
Said Richt: “Malcome had a run on third-and-one-or-two and he hit the right side and there was nothing there and he either spun off or cut back and just kind of knocked it out and got the first down. Those are the kind of tough yards you’ve got to get to move the chains.”
Understanding what the Bulldogs are expecting out of him has been half the battle for Malcome. After a redshirt year, Malcome found himself bowed up and determined to prove he could be everything to everybody when Isaiah Crowell came in this past summer with the tag as the nation’s No. 1 running back prospect.
Georgia has since added to that number, bringing in the nation’s top back for the second straight year in Keith Marshall, recruiting another highly-touted back in Todd Gurley and keeping Richard Samuel at tailback. But instead of being disillusioned by the situation, Malcome has decided to get better at what the coaches are asking him to do. Now it sounds as if Malcome has adopted the team concept and can see where he fits in, now and in the future.
“I think what I bring to the backfield is I can carry the load,” said the 6-foot, 226-pound bruiser. “I’m a power back and that’s what I plan to be. I know my strengths and weaknesses and that’s what I do. We’ve got a lot of people that have speed and other things. I know what I can do and I’m going to stick to it. I’m trying not to do too much; just go out there and do what Coach tells me to do.”
That is not to say that Malcome is suddenly a mild-mannered, shrinking violet. He still carries himself with the bravado and swagger that characterized his personality as a star running back at Southwest DeKalb. It just has been re-channeled after 18 months of trial and tribulation as just one of many elite athletes at a powerhouse program.
“The motto this year is to be the best backfield in America,” said Malcome, his braggadocio fully intact. “I think we’ve got some time to go before we can say that, but I definitely see the potential for us being the backfield that ESPN and everybody’s talking about. But we’ve got to keep working. We’ve got to cut out the mistakes and other things like that. But that’s why we practice and if we keep it up I really believe we’ll be the best backfield in the nation.”
And maybe if all goes well, Malcome will feel worthy again of being called “Boo.”
– Chip Towers, The UGA Blog