Keith Marshall is living up to the hype that was built over a year ago.
He may have started only one game last season, but he made an impact, rushing for 759 yards and eight touchdowns on 117 carries. Not bad for a backup running back.
The only reason Marshall was a backup was the fact Todd Gurley took the SEC by storm. But Gurley and Marshall spearheaded the Bulldogs to their second consecutive SEC East title and a near appearance in the BCS title game.
Because Gurley and Marshall are only sophomores, they are expected to be even better in 2013. But both know they have to better themselves on the field and off the field, and Marshall has done that by adding some weight during the offseason.
Coming into fall camp, Marshall weighs close to 220 pounds. At the start of fall camp in 2012, Marshall weighed a little over 200 pounds (via the 2012 UGA media guide). When he committed to UGA back in 2011, he was 190 pounds.
When it comes to running the football in the SEC, a running back has to know how to run between the tackles. Marshall was good at running in open spaces, which is why he averaged 6.5 yards per carry. But in order for him to be more effective, he had to put on weight this offseason so he would be able to shed defenders like Gurley did last year.
The Bulldogs got a lot out of both Gurley and Marshall, but it would not be a surprise if Marshall was used more in the offense this season.
Marshall’s career high for carries in a game was 12, and that came against Missouri earlier in the 2012 season. He also had 12 carries in the South Carolina game and only had 10 carries in the final two games of the season.
That has to change because opposing defenses will be gunning for Gurley from the start of the season until the end, and Marshall has to be ready to carry the load if necessary.
Gurley is the featured back on offense, and that’s not going to change. But the Bulldogs need to get Marshall more carries in order for them to be a better offense. If they can get Marshall 15 carries each game, that will make him, Gurley, Aaron Murray and the rest of the offense more dangerous.
The expectations are high for Marshall to succeed this season. It’s not on the same level as Gurley (who has also gained some weight during the offseason), but Marshall is on the preseason watch list for the Doak Walker Award, and he was named to the Preseason Media Days All-SEC Second Team and the Athlon Preseason All-SEC Second Team. So the coaches will make sure that Marshall is utilized to the fullest this season without taking anything away from Gurley.
Marshall knows what it takes to make it in the SEC, and he also knows what it takes to maintain his status. With his recent weight gain, he has shown commitment to the Bulldogs, and he wants to do more than just bolster his stats. He wants to help his team go to new heights and win the BCS title.
And based on what he and Gurley have done in the offseason, that goal is more than realistic.