Georgia rushing game looks strong
RB duo Crowell, Malcome part of talented, crowded backfield
ATHENS, Ga. -- Tailbacks Isaiah Crowell and Ken Malcome didn't waste any time impressing coach Mark Richt in Georgia's spring scrimmage.
With freshman Keith Marshall likely to push for the starting job this summer, each snap held special meaning for Crowell, the 2011 Southeastern Conference freshman of the year, and Malcome, who began the day atop the depth chart.
Marshall enrolled early to Georgia, but has been sidelined since March 31 with a strained hamstring.
Crowell and Malcome combined for 71 yards rushing and two touchdowns to help the Red team win G-Day with a 32-31 victory against the Black team Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
"I thought they ran well," Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said. "They got picked up some yards after contact and got some tough yards. I would've liked to have seen us throw the ball to those guys a little more."
|2012 SPRING FOOTBALL|
|Alabama: Fowler has role in crowded backfield|
|Iowa: OC Davis leans on QB Vandenberg|
|Florida: QB competition heads into the fall|
|Stanford: Quiet Taylor is the 'other weapon'|
|Texas: Uncertainty at QB the buzz of spring|
|Ohio State: Meyer looks to build toughness|
|Georgia Tech: Big blow with LB Burnett out|
|Washington State: Leach opens aerial assault|
|Notre Dame: Kelly opens interviews for Irish QB|
|Memphis: Tigers rebuilding with Fuente|
|Michigan: Hoke says holes to fill on both lines|
|North Carolina: Tar Heels, Fedora start practice|
Marshall was ranked by two services as the nation's No. 1 high school running back last year. Richt believes Marshall will be ready for the start of summer practice in August.
Crowell rushed for 39 yards on 10 carries. Malcome ran eight times for 32 yards and scored twice. Black team tailback Richard Samuel, who has recovered from concussion symptoms earlier this month, finished with 43 yards and one touchdown on eight carries.
Georgia ended spring practice without seeing much of Malcolm Mitchell, the split end-turned-cornerback who's been nursing a sore hamstring since April 7.
The Bulldogs plan for him to play both offense and defense this season.
Several other playmakers showed Richt, however, that they were ready to end spring practice with a flourish.
Quarterback Aaron Murray was 7 of 17 passing for 112 yards and one touchdown. His primary backup, Hutson Mason, completed five of eight passes for 62 yards and a TD.
Tavarres King, Justin Scott-Wesley and Marlon Brown combined for seven catches for 125 yards and one touchdown.
In the final 2 minutes, reserve defensive lineman Ricky Lowe returned a fumble 62 yards to help the Red team take a 32-25 lead. Black team tight end Jay Rome responded by catching a 66-yard TD pass from Christian LeMay, but the conversion pass failed.
"Some of these statistics you're reading might not have happened [in a real game]," Richt said. "You might have had quarterback knockdowns, you might have had balls tipped or picked or whatever, and it's so hard to go at a quarterback and not hit him so you're actually whizzing by him."
Richt and his staff will wait until this summer to see who will fill some empty spots in the secondary for the Sept. 1 opener against Buffalo.
Offseason arrests of Sanders Commings (two-game suspension) and Branden Smith (one-game suspension) had already hurt depth at cornerback before free safety Bacarri Rambo ran into trouble at spring break, telling his high school coach that he faces a four-game suspension for inadvertently eating marijuana brownies.
Strong safety Shawn Williams has been sidelined with a knee injury since last week.
Commings, Smith and Rambo started and played with the No. 1 defense in the scrimmage, but coordinator Todd Grantham, whose defense ranked fifth in the nation last year, was pleased to see other players, like reserve cornerback Devin Bowman, step up.
"He's got some size, some strength, he's got some man coverage skills, he's got a little bit of instinct and he's a solid tackler," Grantham said. "We'll continue to work him with other guys and get him ready to play."
Linebacker Jarvis Jones, who last year led the SEC and ranked fifth nationally with 13 1-2 sacks last season, believes Georgia will weather the early-game losses in the secondary.
"The thing about this game is just going out and having fun, but what's more important is that it gives everybody a chance to play," Jones said. "We're a team, so we weren't out there trying to kill each other."
The Bulldogs are rebuilding their offensive line after losing center Ben Jones and tackles Cordy Glenn and Justin Anderson from a 10-4 team.
"Their progress from week one to now has been unbelievable," Murray said. "They're giving me plenty of time to throw the ball. Running lanes are opening up for the running backs, so you've got to give credit to those guys. They're taken on the challenge of going against maybe two of three first-round picks in next year's draft."
Crowell and Malcome are trying to hold off the challenge from Marshall, but all three players must wait until summer for their rivalry to restart.
"I think we're still getting better as a whole," Malcome said. "I've made [Crowell] better. He's made me better, and we make Keith better."