Ken Malcome took the news in stride. All along, he expected to be the starting tailback for No. 6 Georgia.
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Coach Mark Richt announced Wednesday evening after a closed scrimmage that Malcome will likely start the Sept. 1 opener against Buffalo, though it was not a totally definitive call.
”Something could change between now and then,” Richt said.
Malcome seems confident the job is his. He barely cracked a smile when the media told him of Richt’s statement.
”It’s not that I don’t care. That’s what I’ve been thinking anyway,” the third-year sophomore said. ”I’m going to keep pushing. I’m not going to let that one statement go to my head. I’m still going to be the same Ken Malcome on the practice field. It’s not going to change anything. It just gives me more confidence about what I can do. It’s good to know he has the confidence to start me.”
Richt was vague about the pecking order behind Malcome, saying he wants everyone to keep fighting for a spot right up until the Bulldogs take the field. Senior Richard Samuel and freshmen Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley are contending for playing time.
”I don’t even know for sure. I’ve not talked to the staff about how we’re going to do it yet,” Richt said. ”Even when we do it, I doubt I’ll announce anything. I don’t want the guys to know. I just want them to keep fighting, keep competing. We’ll tell them the night before the game maybe.”
In the scrimmage, Gurley was the top rusher with 54 yards on six carries, including a touchdown. Malcome also carried it six times, gaining 50 yards. Marshall had 17 yards on three carries, but a long gain was called back by a holding penalty and he had a receiving touchdown. Samuel, who also figures to get some time at fullback, carried three times for 10 yards.
”They’ve all done well,” Richt said.
Isaiah Crowell, the Southeastern Conference freshman of the year, was supposed to be the main guy in the backfield, but he was kicked off the team following his arrest on felony weapons charges. Marshall and Gurley are both highly rated recruits from North Carolina, but Malcome has the edge in experience. He came on strong at the end of last season, getting his first career start against Georgia Tech when Crowell was injured and rushing for a career-best 51 yards in an Outback Bowl loss to Michigan State.
”I feel like I’m the man now as far as knowing what to do,” Malcome said. ”I don’t feel like I have any pressure on me. The coaches don’t say too much to me anymore. They just let me go out there and play. When I do that, I really don’t make mistakes.”
No matter who’s in the backfield, quarterback Aaron Murray expects the Bulldogs to be just as effective running the ball as they were with Crowell.
”All of them are very talented backs. All of them had tremendous camps,” Murray said. ”I’m looking forward to what they’re going to do come season time.”