ATHENS – For Georgia it’s a good problem to have. But for Ken Malcome, it’s more than a little frustrating.
Everybody knows about the successes of freshman tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall this season. Gurley was named a Freshman All-American by The Sporting News on Thursday. He became just the second Georgia true freshman to surpass 1,000 yards in a season (1,260 to date) and scored 17 touchdowns, including a 100-yard kickoff return. Marshall emerged as Gurley’s primary backup and ran for 723 yards and 8 scores.
Lost in the smoke of that fire has been Malcome, who actually began the season as the starting tailback. The redshirt sophomore from Decatur has appeared in 10 of the Bulldogs’ 13 games, averaging 27.2 yards and 5 carries in those contests.
As Georgia prepares for its Jan. 1 date with Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl, Malcome is not sure what his future is with the team or in football in general.
“I’m not too happy with that situation,” Malcome said following Georgia’s practice Thursday afternoon. “But like I said to the coaches, I’m a player and I’m going to do what they tell me to. I’ve got two more years of football, then I don’t know. We’re going to see what happens. . . . I’m not sure at all what I’m going to do.”
Malcome has been down this road before. He actually left the team for one day in 2011 when freshman Isaiah Crowell emerged as the primary ball-carrier and his opportunities dried up midway through the season. Malcome returned at the behest of coach Mark Richt and exhibited a better attitude the rest of the season. He ended the year as the Bulldogs’ leading rusher over the final four games of the season.
Of course, Crowell was dismissed following a mid-summer arrest and Malcome became the starter by default. But Gurley and Marshall bypassed Malcome on the depth chart by the second week of this season.
“I can’t fault them,” Malcome said of his freshman backfield mates. “What they’re doing on the field, it doesn’t affect anything off the field. I’m still going to take them around with me, we’re still going to sit and eat together. . . . It’s just playing time.”
Malcome said he understands and respects the talent of the underclassmen. He simply feels he hasn’t been utilized enough in the rotation.
“I don’t have to start,” he said. “I don’t mind sharing carries. I just want to contribute to winning like I know I can. Coming in in the last minute when nobody really cares with all freshman linemen that haven’t developed yet, they’re putting me in situations where I can’t really help myself.”
Malcome’s role has been to play in the final minutes of games in which the outcome has been decided. His most productive game of the year was five carries for 45 yards in the 35-7 loss to South Carolina. His long run was 30 yards in the 48-3 win over Vanderbilt. He’s averaging 4.8 yards per carry, to 6.3 for Gurley and 6.6 for Marshall.
His teammates empathize.
“He’s been through a lot,” said Gurley, who leads the Bulldogs with 17 touchdowns. “As far as us being his teammates, we check on him and just treat on him like we would one of our family members. We’re together. . . . The whole 9running backs) meeting room, guys have been saying it’s been the best all year.”
Georgia’s coaches were recruiting and not available for interviews Thursday.
Meanwhile, Malcome said he’s in the best shape of his life. He’s up to 232 pounds and simply believes he has more to offer.
“I’ve talked to them a couple of times,” Malcome said of the coaching staff. “I’m not going to get into what they say. What me and Coach talk about is confidential. But basically . . . I don’t stand toe-to-toe with what they say. I told myself, ‘I’m just going to try to do good every time I get a chance.’”
GEORGIA’S LEADING RUSHERS