Nick Chubb (left) and Sony Michel will face a crowded backfield when they arrive at Georgia.
With most of these players, you can say their first names around Athens, Ga., and everyone knows who you’re referring to. In a few years, the names “Sony” and “Chubb” could be added to that list.
That’s the ambition for two of the 2014 class’ most complete running backs. ESPN 300 running backs Sony Michel (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage) and Nick Chubb (Cedartown, Ga./Cedartown) have been impressive during U.S. Army All-American Bowl practices, and the two are working as teammates in the coveted all-star game before doing so in the SEC.
“I’m going in behind guys like Herschel Walker and Todd Gurley, two of the best running backs ever,” Chubb said. “I’m going to make a name for myself and I’m going to do my best.”
Michel added: “I’m just going in and trying to put my name on the map like they did.”
At first glance, Michel, the No. 2 running back in the country (No. 16 in the ESPN 300), and Chubb, the No. 8 running back (No. 64 in the ESPN 300), fit the description of a Georgia power runner. Both have good size and great speed. Michel is a solid 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds. Chubb is also 5-11 but weighs in at 216.
The idea of being as good as Walker and the distinguished Georgia ghosts of the past will always be in the back of their minds. While the mission is achievable, it’s also a long way off.
Georgia’s 2013 running back group was loaded with depth and seemed almost unfair at times. When everyone was healthy, the Bulldogs had Gurley, Marhsall, Brendan Douglas and J.J. Green to choose from. Gurley and Marshall were the “elder statesmen” as sophomores.
Add Michel and Chubb to the list next year, and the backfield looks even more dominant -- and crowded. Both players understand the risk of not playing early, but they also aren’t afraid of competing.
“There’s always going to be pressure, and people are going to be watching to see if we can live up to it,” Chubb said. “I’ve been doing this since I was young, and I’m going to continue doing it. I’m going to do my best.”
Power running is what they specialize in. When they arrive to Athens, some want to make the “thunder and lightning” comparison.
But “thunder and thunder” or even “lightning and lightning” might be more appropriate. Both are explosive and have that extra gear coaches look for. They have lower-body strength, which allows them to break tackles and punish defenders, and they have great field vision, which allows them to showcase their elusiveness.
One player who is a fan is ESPN 300 quarterback Jacob Park (Goose Creek, S.C./Stratford), a Georgia commit and another U.S. Army All-American. Park has had a chance to get to know both Chubb and Michel in Army bowl practices, and he’s seen both running backs make big plays -- even when a play didn’t look promising.
“I’d heard about them and seen them play a couple of times on TV,” Park said, “but when you’re on the same field with them handing them ball and watching them run, it’s completely different.
“Every time I give Nick the ball and he takes off, it’s amazing how big and quick he is. Sony’s vision is ridiculous. You can hand the ball to him, and he can take it to the house on any play.”
Michel said he and Chubb met during a visit to Athens in September. At the time, the introduction was done matter-of-factly, but this trip to San Antonio has allowed both to not only get to know each other but also see the additional talent Georgia will get next season.
They and Park are three of six Georgia commits who are U.S. Army All-Americans, the others being ESPN 300 athlete Malkom Parrish (Quitman, Ga./Brooks County), ESPN 300 offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn (St. Petersburg, Fla./Lakewood) and three-star offensive lineman Dyshon Sims (Valdosta, Ga./Lowndes).
The best part about Chubb and Michel’s budding relationship: There are no ego trips. As good as both backs are, they’ve worked side by side rather than competitively.
“We’re just building a relationship now and enjoying ourselves,” Michel said. “It’s fun. We’re just out here as players.”
Being “good” at Georgia is always something Michel and Chubb will think about. Being “Herschel Walker good” is even more of a challenge. Walker’s career 5,259 rushing yards and 49 touchdowns (1980-82) is still an SEC record -- and extremely difficult to reach, particularly with the running back depth chart Georgia has.
But best believe, both running backs will shoot for the moon.
“It all depends on how we do this summer,” Michel said. “I’ll let that take care of itself then.”
“I know when I’m in the game, I’m going to do what I’ve got to do to help the team,” Chubb added. “When I’m not in, I won’t have any worries because I know he’s going to handle it, too.”