Georgia coach Mark Richt said after Wednesday’s third and final preseason scrimmage that he was “pretty sure,” that Ken Malcome would start the Sept. 1 game in Sanford Stadium against Buffalo.
Freshman Todd Gurley from Tarboro, N.C., has been the top rusher in each scrimmage—he had 54 yards and a touchdown on six carries Wednesday—but Malcome was right behind him with 50 yards on six carries. Freshman Keith Marshall ran for 17 yards on three carries and caught a 23-yard touchdown pass. Richard Samuel went for 10 yards on three rushes.
Malcome, a redshirt sophomore who briefly quit the team last year, started two games last season, including the Outback Bowl.
He rushed for 174 yards on 42 carries during a season in which he was at one point fifth-string.
“It’s a relief,” Malcome said of being the probable starter. “I came from the bottom. I tell a lot of people hard work matters. It gets you where you want to go. Don’t take it for granted. Because he said that, I’m not going to let up.”
Gurley has rushed for 199 yards and four touchdowns on 19 carries in the scrimmages. Malcome’s totals are 144 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
On Wednesday’s showing, Richt said: “Gurley ran well, but I thought they all really did run well.”
Richt said he hasn’t talked to the staff about the rest of the tailback pecking order.
“It’s just too early, but even when we do that I doubt I’ll announce anything because I don’t even want the guys to know,” he said. “I just want them to keep fighting and keep competing. We’ll tell them the night before the game maybe.”
All of Georgia’s top four tailbacks have gotten first-team work.
“We’re not too much heavy on who’s going to start,” Malcome said. “We’re really heavy on a rotation.”
A rotation that Malcome will start unless Richt has a change of heart.
“I think he’s ready to go,” quarterback Aaron Murray said. “I think him and Richard have stepped up and been some great leaders for those younger guys and taught them what to do in making sure they’re ready to go. Being one of the older guys he looks great. He’s definitely in command and know what he’s doing.”
Said Malcome: “I feel like I’m the man as far as just knowing what to do. I feel like I have no pressure. Coaches don’t say too much to me anymore. They just let me go out there and play and by them doing that, I don’t make mistakes.”
Smith eyeing return roles
Branden Smith returned punts for the first five games of last season.
The senior cornerback wants to secure the top spot again and hold onto it this time.
“That’s a big turn on the game, punt return or kick return,” said Smith, who averaged 7.8 yards on punt returns and 18.7 on kickoff returns last season. “That can make or break the game. You really need a key player back there.”
Smith and Malcolm Mitchell returned punts in Wednesday’s scrimmage. Mitchell and Todd Gurley handled kickoffs. Smith has said that Damian Swann is also getting return looks.
The now-departed Brandon Boykin added punt returns to his kickoff return duties last season and returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown against Michigan State.
Smith returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown against Coastal Carolina, but it was called back by a penalty.
He wants another chance to take a return to the end zone.
“It’s just a big competition and we’re just having fun out there,” Smith said.
Mum on safeties
Georgia returns starting safeties Shawn Williams and Bacarri Rambo, but with Rambo expected to be suspended, Richt isn’t saying who will start there.
“I probably won’t ever say that,” Richt said. “Just because strategically I don’t know if I want people to know what we’re going to do. It might give them a hint. I don’t want to give them a hint.”
Rambo is expected to be suspended for a violation of Georgia’s drug testing policy.
This and that
Senior receiver Marlon Brown continues to have a strong preseason. He led all receivers with seven catches for 98 yards. Linebacker Mike Gillard led all tacklers with four…Richt said he wasn’t trying to keep the media out with a closed practice on Tuesday. It was closed only because there was no fundamental work done that day. Practices later this week will be open, he said.
Is Georgia thinking ahead to Missouri? Told that “their guy is a dual-threat quarterback,” Richt said that Faton Bauta is “really good at simulating (James) Franklin.” That’s Missouri’s quarterback.
There were no operational snafus by the coaching staff in the scrimmage as they simulated a game-day. Richt credited the graduate assistants for getting the scout team lined up properly.