ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia’s coaches hardly would have predicted last September that Ken Malcome would rank among the Bulldogs’ top options at tailback following spring practice.
For a period of one whole day last Sept. 28, Malcome wasn’t a member of the team at all. He informed coach Mark Richt of his intentions to transfer because he was buried on the depth chart following a spate of injuries, only to return a day later.
Malcome didn’t play for another five games after rejoining the team -- he missed the last of those games, against New Mexico State, for failing a drug test -- but began to make an impact by the end of the season, leading the Bulldogs in rushing in each of their last three games. His progress continued this spring as coaches complimented him for an improved focus and attitude. That helped him move up the depth chart.
“I don’t know for sure how he’s going to finish, but he’s on a great track right now,” Richt said. “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 a sudden, you see how good a guy can be and then you all of a sudden see them get confidence that they never had before.”
Not only did Malcome win the team’s most improved offensive player award for spring practice, he started Saturday’s G-Day game ahead of Isaiah Crowell as the Bulldogs’ first-team running back. He scored two touchdowns for the victorious Red team.
The strong finish made Malcome’s improvement one of Georgia’s feel-good stories of the spring.
“He’s really blossomed for us as a football player and as a student and as a person and I’m just really happy for him,” Richt said. “Those stories happen a lot. They happen all the time and that’s what keeps you coaching.”
What can Brown do for you?
The box score reads that Tavarres King scored on a 33-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter of G-Day, but the player credits fellow receiver Marlon Brown with an assist for getting into the end zone.
Just as King caught a quick pass from Aaron Murray, Brown laid out cornerback Blake Sailors with a block, creating an obstacle between King and would-be tackler Connor Norman in the process and freeing King to break down the sideline.
King had only linebacker Alec Ogletree to outrun down the sideline to reach the end zone -- and he barely escaped Ogletree’s grasp before tiptoeing inside the pylon.
“Marlon made that play. That’s Marlon’s touchdown,” King said. “He cut the corner and it was just a sprint to the pylon for me. So Marlon made that play and hats off to him.”
What's next for Samuel?
Richard Samuel showed Saturday that he isn’t ready to become a full-time fullback yet.
The rising senior gave fullback a try this spring -- and he might spend time at the position this fall -- but he reminded observers that he can bring a physical running style to the tailback position with a game-high 43 rushing yards and a touchdown at G-Day.
“Richard proved today that he’s a valuable runner,” Richt said. “He can absolutely bring a good change of pace to our running game with the physicality that he has, and he’s got speed too, of course.”
However, Richt remains unsure of what to predict for Samuel’s role in the fall. He got only a taste of fullback during spring practice before missing time with a concussion, plus fullback signee Quayvon Hicks is not even on campus yet.
If Hicks and Zander Ogletree can hold down the fullback position, Samuel might play the position only in specialty situations -- or maybe even not at all.
“I just don’t know how that thing’s going to shape up,” Richt said. “We’ve got a couple guys here on campus and a young freshman coming in to see what he can do, so we’re just going to have to wait and see how much playing time Richard will get at the fullback position. A fullback that’s played tailback, it gives you a little bit more versatility in certain things you might call, as well, so it’ll be good.”
View from above
Richt took advantage of the opportunity to watch G-Day from a couple of vantage points that are not available on a typical game day.
He spent a couple of quarters watching from the press box and chatting with TV commentators who were calling the game, plus he watched several series at field level, directly behind the offense.
The ground-level position behind the offense is where he often watches the offense during team scrimmages.
“I normally stand behind there in all of our scrimmages and I can keep the headset on so I know what plays are being called so I’ll kind of know what to look for,” Richt said. “I tend to do that in all the scrimmages and I decided to go ahead and do it today.”
Although Richt typically requests that the referees let plays extend as much as possible until a quarterback -- who is off-limits for contact -- might sustain a health-threatening hit, he said the defense’s biggest play of G-Day included “more contact on a quarterback than we’ve had all spring.”
Outside linebacker Reuben Faloughi blew past walk-on right tackle Eddie McQuillen in the fourth quarter to get a clear shot at quarterback Parker Welch. He swatted the ball out of Welch’s hand and it popped up into the air directly to Ricky Lowe, who caught the loose ball at the 38 and raced 62 yards for the Red team’s go-ahead touchdown.
“We did get a few more shots on the quarterback than we’re used to getting,” Richt said. “Thankfully no one got hurt, but [the Lowe touchdown] was a particular play where normally we don’t want anybody touching those guys, but the ball got hit, popped up, Ricky makes a play and takes it to the house.”