Keith Marshall arrived on Georgia's campus last summer as a heralded 5-star recruit from North Carolina who was expected to make a major impact in the backfield for the Bulldogs.
For the most part, he lived up to expectations in his freshman season. Marshall finished the 2012-13 season with 759 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 117 carries. He also had 11 receptions for 91 yards and one receiving touchdown.
Those are solid numbers for any running back, particularly a true freshman playing in the SEC.
Unfortunately for Marshall, he was overshadowed by another freshman from North Carolina in the Georgia backfield, Todd Gurley.
Gurley was one of the most dominant freshmen in the country and had an incredible season for the Bulldogs, finishing with 222 carries for 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns. His physical, punishing running style often wore down opponents and made him an effective rusher in the second half of games.
Marshall and Gurley gave Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo the luxury of having one of the best running back duos in college football.
Because of the big numbers he put up as a freshman, Gurley received all the attention in the media, while Keith Marshall's great season went under the radar.
Expect that to change this season.
Make no mistake—Gurley will continue to be the primary back for the Bulldogs and could be a Heisman Trophy contender depending on how Georgia's season goes—but Marshall will be a breakout star in the SEC this season.
He possesses outstanding explosiveness and speed. After having a full offseason to build his strength, refine his footwork and study film of SEC defenses, the 5'11", 219-pound back will be able to utilize his speed this season.
Marshall also serves as the perfect complementary back for Gurley. Defenses will key in on Gurley and focus on trying to prevent him from pounding the ball between the tackles. Once Gurley can wear down a team's front seven, Marshall will bring a change of pace that is difficult for a defense to adjust to.
He also has the potential to be a dangerous weapon in the passing game for Aaron Murray. His height and quickness make him an ideal size for the screen plays that Mike Bobo likes to use with his running backs. With an athletic and experienced offensive line, this could be one of Georgia's most effective plays this season.
Marshall is a difficult cover when he comes out of the backfield and a linebacker is forced to cover him on a receiving route, and Murray is one of the best quarterbacks in the country when it comes to finding the mismatch on the field.
Marshall offers the tools that make him a multidimensional weapon in the Georgia offense. He's just one player in an offense that will be full of weapons, but he has incredible potential. And with his skills, this sophomore will have a breakout campaign this season for the Bulldogs.
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