This is a story about a star running back at Georgia, which means that it is also, on some intrinsic level, a story about Herschel Walker. It’s impossible to avoid: In his three years, Walker so thoroughly embodied the ideal college workhorse that in the three-plus decades since his last carry in a red-and-black uniform, his shadow over the position has only grown. At some point, possibly before he even left campus, that shadow became a permanent feature of the landscape, looming over aspiring recruits and proven commodities alike: The best of the post-Walker tailbacks in Athens include two consensus All-Americans,1 six first-round draft picks,2 and a future NFL MVP, all of whom register in the imagination as mere footnotes by comparison. No broad-shouldered, blue-chip prospect has ever been touted as The Next Rodney Hampton. No fan in the cheap seats has ever been moved by a great run to exclaim, “That kid looks like Tim Worley out there!” No TV producer has ever booked Garrison Hearst or Knowshon Moreno to grant his blessing to the latest heir apparent.
So the bar for what qualifies as a star running back at Georgia is relative, to put it mildly. And before we get around to parsing the bona fides of the current headliner, sophomore Nick Chubb, it has to be said that exultant expectations for UGA rushers over the past few years have tended to produce a lot of false prophets.
The Georgia Bulldogs are in search of a starting quarterback and a drought-ending Southeastern Conference title.
First things first, Bulldogs coach Mark Richt says he has ”no idea” who will win the quarterback job. His only prediction at SEC media days Thursday was that it will be ”a tremendous competition” between Virginia graduate transfer Greyson Lambert, Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta.
Lambert has to play catch-up in learning the offense since he only recently arrived on campus.
”I think it’s going to take a while,” Richt said. ”We have 29 practice opportunities before the first game, and we’re going to get a rotation where we can see the guys that we want to see compete and then make a decision on who should be the starter.
”But right now, I don’t know who that is.”
Lambert started nine games for Virginia last season, but left after losing the starting job in the spring.
Offensive lineman John Theus said he’s confident in all of those quarterbacks, from what he’s seen on the field and in offseason drills.
”Greyson’s competitive, Faton’s competitive, Brice is competitive,” Theus said. ”It’s just going to be interesting to see who wins.”
As a team, the Bulldogs are trying to win their first SEC title since 2005. They were picked as the heavy favorite to win the Eastern Division by reporters covering SEC media days – but to lose to Alabama in the championship game.
That’s been a trend. The West has won six straight championship games and the Bulldogs have fallen twice in Atlanta during that span.
Wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell makes it clear they’re ready to snap that streak.
”Oh, it’s time. It’s time,” Mitchell said. ”Our goal is to break through that glass ceiling.”
The Bulldogs have annually been among the division’s preseason favorites, only to fall short. Missouri has won the East two straight seasons.
What’s held Georgia back?
”If I knew that, I might be the smartest man,” Mitchell said. ”But I don’t have that answer.”
Once again, the Bulldogs figure to have a loaded backfield. This time tailback Nick Chubb is considered a potential Heisman Trophy contender after a huge freshman season.
Richt didn’t bring his biggest star to media days, saying he prefers to bring seniors.
Richt doesn’t think the hype will get to Chubb, calling him ”a pretty quiet, unassuming guy.”
”He doesn’t care about that,” the coach said. ”He cares about working hard, playing hard and helping Georgia win. I really appreciate that about him. ”