published Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Georgia getting second heralded tailback tandem in three years

Georgia tailback commitment Nick Chubb, shown here in an all-star game after his junior season at Cedartown High, is the nation’s No. 35 overall prospect according to Rivals.com.
Georgia tailback commitment Nick Chubb, shown here in an all-star game after his junior season at Cedartown High, is the nation’s No. 35 overall prospect according to Rivals.com.
  • photo
    Georgia tailback Keith Marshall looks for room in a 2013 game against South Carolina.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

  • photo
    Georgia running back Todd Gurley (3) dives into the end zone for a touchdown as Kentucky cornerback Jaleel Hytchye, left, defends in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Athens, Ga.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Georgia's 19-member signing class in 2012 was highlighted by the tailback tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, who combined for 2,144 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns later that year as the Bulldogs came within a whisker of playing for the national championship.

The Bulldogs entered today's national signing day with 18 commitments, including a pair of tailbacks -- Sony Michel of Plantation, Fla., and Nick Chubb of Cedartown, Ga. -- who will prove superior to their predecessors in the view of one recruiting analyst.

"There is not a Todd Gurley among these guys," said J.C. Shurburtt, the national recruiting director for 247Sports.com, "but Todd Gurley is 225 pounds, runs a 4.4 and is far more special than any recruiting analyst, including myself, thought he would be coming out. Keith Marshall, though, has been injury-prone and is kind of a one-cut-and-go guy. He's still a talented running back, but he's not a five-star guy.

"Sony Michel and Nick Chubb are closer in ability, but they're better combined, I think, than Gurley and Marshall. Next year, if Georgia loses those running backs [early to the NFL], they won't have a problem, because these guys will be ready to go."

Georgia's class of commitments entered today ranked No. 8 by Rivals.com and 247Sports.com, No. 10 by ESPN and No. 14 by Scout.com. The class includes quarterback Jacob Park of Goose Creek, S.C., who was the program's lone early enrollee this winter.

The Bulldogs had 19 commitments until Tuesday, when safety Kendall Gant of Lakeland, Fla., switched his pledge to Marshall for academic reasons.

Michel and Chubb are Georgia's highest-rated commitments according to Rivals, with Michel the nation's No. 13 overall prospect and Chubb No. 35. Two years ago, Gurley was Rivals' No. 42 prospect and Marshall was No. 46.

ESPN national recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill isn't ready to project Michel and Chubb as the better duo, but he does credit Bulldogs coach Mark Richt and his assistants for having good foresight.

"What I think Georgia has done a great job of is recruit with the anticipation of a player leaving early for the NFL," Luginbill said. "If Todd Gurley or even Keith Marshall, should he come back healthy, leaves early, you've got to anticipate that now. They've done that with Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, and I think that's very, very important."

Richt is scheduled to discuss his 14th class of Bulldogs signees -- his first full class without longtime recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner -- today at 2.

The Bulldogs are still in the mix for a pair of in-state defensive ends/outside linebackers who plan signing announcements this afternoon: Lorenzo Carter (6-5, 235) of Norcross and Andrew Williams (6-4, 245) of McDonough. Carter is rated by Rivals as the nation's No. 3 weakside defensive end, with Williams ranked No. 12.

Georgia also has entered the picture for Isaiah McKenzie (5-8, 165), a teammate of Michel who is rated by Rivals as the nation's No. 35 receiver.

Should the Bulldogs land Carter, they would collect six of Rivals' top 100 prospects. Carter is the No. 36 overall prospect, one spot behind Chubb, and other commitments on that list are cornerback Malkom Parrish (No. 71) of Quitman, Ga., tight end Jeb Blazevich (No. 79) of Charlotte, N.C., and defensive end Keyon Brown (No. 91) of Wauchula, Fla.

"I think Georgia has an excellent class," Shurburtt said. "It's such an interesting situation in Georgia these days, because so many other programs are coming into that state and landing big guys. What Mark Richt and company have done is go into North Carolina and Florida and get players who are just as good if they lose one. Recruiting at Georgia will be even better now that Jeremy Pruitt is the defensive coordinator, because he is excellent in that regard."

Said Luginbill: "I think Georgia's lack of high numbers in terms of commitments is reflective of the fact that the bulk of their roster is returning, and that's a good thing."

Bama's class grows

Alabama's class of 26 signees entered today ranked No. 1 by all the recruiting services.

The 26th commitment is tight end Ty Flournoy-Smith (6-3, 245) of Georgia Military College. Flournoy-Smith signed with Georgia and played in eight games during the 2012 season, but he was dismissed last May after admitting to smoking marijuana.

Flournoy-Smith, who also got arrested in Athens for falsifying a police report that claimed his textbooks were stolen after he already had sold them for cash, had six receptions for 134 yards and five touchdowns at GMC.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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