When Georgia running back Nick Chubb went down with a knee injury last October against Tennessee, Bulldog fans were aghast.
How could this happen two years in a row?
Remember, the year before, Heisman candidate Todd Gurley tore his ACL against Auburn, ending his Georgia career. Gurley, of course, still went in the first round of the following NFL Draft and had a phenomenal rookie season.
New head coach Kirby Smart certainly hopes Chubb’s comeback mirrors Gurley’s amazing recovery.
A big concern of Smart’s was how Chubb would handle being hit for the first time. Chubb passed that test earlier this month in Georgia’s scrimmage, according to Smart via Chip Towers of Dawg Nation.
He did well. He carried it seven or eight times. I think the officials were more worried about him than we were because they were blowing the whistle quick and we didn’t want that. But he got tackled and did well with it and it was important for him to get over that psychologically but also the physical conditioning part of it.
With that out of the way, the Bulldogs and Chubb can now focus their attention on the season opener against North Carolina.
UNC is coming off its best season in years and will be looking to make a statement with a win over an SEC powerhouse like the ‘Dawgs. However, the Tar Heels struggled to stop the run last fall, allowing 247 yards rushing per game, good for 121st in the country.
Numbers like that should have Chubb and Smart salivating at the possibilities.
Chubb’s return to health couldn’t come at a better time for Georgia. Smart indicated this week he doesn’t know if running back Sony Michel will be cleared for the opener, per Jason Butt of The Telegraph.
“I don’t know if he can play or not,” Smart said in reference to Michel. “If he can play he’ll definitely be in line (to receive carries). He’ll be one of the first ones in line. But he’s got to be cleared before I can do that.”
And, of course, there’s the quarterback situation. Smart still hasn’t announced a starter for the opener.
Regardless of who is under center, the Bulldogs will be in good shape on offense due to the presence of Chubb. The 5’10”, 228-pound junior is one of the more dynamic players in all of college football. Chubb is the classic between-the-tackles runner that can grind out the tough yards, yet has the speed to score from 80 yards out on any given touch.
Chubb combines explosiveness, vision and patience like no other back in college football. Defenders often struggle to get a clean shot on Chubb and when they do it often takes multiple players to bring him down.
If he’s 100 percent healthy, he will be in the mix for the Heisman Trophy along with Leonard Fournette, Deshaun Watson and Christian McCaffrey.
UGA’s offense fell apart in 2015 after Chubb’s injury and just his mere presence in the lineup will be a big lift to his teammates.
As a sophomore last season, Chubb rushed for 747 yards in six games, averaging over eight yards per carry before his injury. Chubb also scored eight touchdowns. The year before, Chubb ran for over 1,500 yards and 14 scores.
A big year this fall and Chubb should pass his good buddy, Gurley, for second place on UGA’s all-time rushing list. And Smart could contend for an SEC title in his first year on the sideline.