Georgia running back Nick Chubb made the most of an opportunity when he replaced suspended star running back Todd Gurley in 2014. The freshman emerged as a breakout star and rushed for more than 100 yards in each game since taking over the role of starting tailback.
When Gurley returned from his month-long suspension, he suffered an unfortunate season-ending injury that effectively ended his college career. Chubb, however, continued to shine as Georgia’s feature back and finished with the fourth highest rushing season in school history — behind each of Herschel Walker’s three seasons.
In football, a player must make the most of any chance they can get to become a star. Chubb did it and now fellow sophomore Sony Michel must follow suit in his absence.
Georgia lost its star running back Chubb during its 38-31 loss at Tennessee last Saturday. The sophomore suffered damage to multiple ligaments and cartilage but not the ACL, the school announced Sunday.
Coach Mark Richt noted that “it’s pretty safe to say” his running back will miss the remainder of the season. According to ESPN, Chubb is expected to undergo surgery within the next two weeks and the Bulldogs expect a full recovery.
Enter Michel who, Heisman frontrunner Leonard Fournette and FSU’s Dalvin Cook, was the No. 3 running back for the 2014 national recruiting class. That’s right, it was Michel who was expected to be the breakout star behind Gurley.
When the two arrived in Athens it always seemed like Chubb had the advantage and for good reason. Aside from LSU’s Leonard Fournette, the Georgia back is the best player in the SEC and was the only back anywhere close to challenging Fournette for the Heisman in 2015.
But Michel never really saw enough carries to enjoy a breakout performance. That is until Chubb’s injury Saturday, which forced Georgia to make him its primary back.
Michel he rushed for 145 yards on a career-high 22 carries. It was the second time he reached the 100-yard plateau — 155 yards on 10 carries against Troy in 2014 — and the only time he had more than 16 attempts.
Obviously, Chubb’s absence will play an impact on Georgia. But once again, the Bulldogs are so stacked at running back that they should see another breakout performance in the absence of a star player.
Even without Chubb Georgia’s gameplan will remain the same because it still has a similarly talented player in Michel. According to Richt, the Bulldogs didn’t divert from their strategy on Saturday despite the injury.
“Sony ran it up there between the tackles and we pretty much called the same plays for the most part,” Richt said after Saturday’s loss. “Nick probably would have handled more of the inside runs if he was there. You do have to give credit to Sony and the line blocked well.”
It’s always a crushing blow when a team loses its star player. However, Michel will fill the void and show the maturity needed to take the reins in Chubb’s absence.
Richt noted that Michel won’t act like it isn’t a “big deal” to take over as the team’s primary back. The sophomore also shared his views on his new role.
“My mindset was just to stay focused. It was a big game,” Michel said. “I prepared for this moment. That’s what we practiced for and it should be no different.”
Michel will likely see a breakout season as the feature back in Georgia’s run-heavy offense. The sophomore should also have a confidence boost in his new role, which could provide the Bulldogs with two of the conference’s best running backs once Chubb is healthy enough to return to action.
Michel must make the most of his opportunity and provide Georgia with a star presence in the absence of his teammate.