If this whole series had been a ranking of Georgia’s best players, then the suspense would have been over rather quickly. Nick Chubb, based on every reasonable measure from last season, is that guy.
Ah, but we wanted suspense. Yes, this has been an informational and analytical endeavor. But it was enjoyable to keep getting asked: So who’s No. 1, Chubb or a quarterback? (And which quarterback?)
In deciding the team’s most important player, there is plenty of debate. These rankings, as was mercilessly beaten into your head, were based on not only the talent of each player, but the importance of their position, the depth at certain positions, and the strengths and weaknesses of the team.
That led us to a ranking that, in descending order, went:
No. 12 was freshman receiver Terry Godwin.
No. 11 was senior kicker Marshall Morgan.
No. 10 was the inside linebacker combo of juniors Reggie Carter and Tim Kimbrough.
No. 9 was sophomore receiver and return specialist Isaiah McKenzie.
No. 8 was senior left tackle John Theus.
No. 7 was the outside linebacking trio of Jordan Jenkins, Leonard Floyd and Lorenzo Carter.
No. 6 was sophomore offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn.
No. 5 was sophomore defensive back Dominick Sanders.
No. 4 was freshman defensive lineman Trent Thompson.
No. 3 was senior receiver Malcolm Mitchell.
And now we have arrived at the penultimate entry, which likely removes doubt what position will be occupied by No. 1. That one will be occupied by intrigue and uncertainty. But first, Georgia fans, bask in the non-drama and certainty of …
2. NICK CHUBB
WHY HE’S VITAL: You could argue that the Bulldogs will be fine at tailback no matter what. They were last year when Todd Gurley was out. So would everything be hunky-dory again if something happened to Chubb? This version of the Georgia football team would rather not find out, especially with questions in so many other areas of the offense.
Plus, there could very well be a considerable drop-off after Chubb. Can Sony Michel and Keith Marshall stay healthy? Is Marshall truly back to his old self? Brendan Douglas and A.J. Turman are solid, but aren’t close to the difference-maker that Chubb is.
After Gurley’s suspension, with eight games left in the season, Chubb’s “worst” game still saw him rush for 113 yards. That was against Charleston Southern, where he was pulled after nine carries.
Chubb had 266 rushing yards against Louisville, which still finished as the nation’s 10th-best rushing defense. He gained 202 yards against Arkansas, which was 12th-best, 156 against Florida (13th in the nation), 143 against Missouri (26th in the nation). And going all the way back to the opener, when Chubb was sharing carries, he had 70 yards on just four carries against Clemson, which was fifth best in the country.
So if Georgia has Chubb heading into that showdown against Alabama (fourth-best rushing defense in the nation last year), then it should feel pretty good. If not, well, then Michel and Marshall better be healthy, and better be as good as Chubb was last year when his number was called.
QUOTABLE: “The work ethic he displays on the field, just the way he practices, I’ve been around a few guys that work like that. He’s very mature beyond his years and (knows) what it takes to be an elite player. You see the way the guy works and the way he finishes runs, the way he attacks individual (drills) when he and coach (Thomas) Brown are just doing simple footwork drills, or read drills, or even pass protection, he attacks his craft. So obviously his ability, we’ve all seen that. The sky’s the limit for the guy. The thing I was most blown away with was just the work ethic, just in the classroom and in the field. When you do that it tends to lead to success.” – Brian Schottenheimer
BEST CASE: So look, last year as a wide-eyed freshman Chubb merely had eight straight 100-yard games, becoming the first Georgia player to do that since Herschel Walker, and had the fourth-most rushing yards in school history (1,547) despite coming off the bench the first five games. If you extrapolate out those numbers over a full season, then Walker’s school-record 1,891 yards (in 1981) is well within reach.
But that’s not the best case scenario for Chubb, or his team.
The best thing to happen would be healthy and productive seasons from Michel and Marshall as well, which not only affords Chubb some rest, but gives Schottenheimer more set pieces. How about lining up Michel outside as a receiver, as Mike Bobo did at the start of last season, or in the Wildcat?
Chubb accumulating 1,900 yards would still be great for Georgia this season. But doing it in on 20 carries per game, rather than 30, would be better for everybody.
WORST CASE: Other than injury, or NCAA suspension, or being struck by a meteor, it would be Chubb once again having to handle a huge workload, and it being too much this season. The result could easily be the unraveling of the entire Georgia offense.
Remember, when Georgia’s quarterback situation is brought up, the default position is: “Well they don’t need a special quarterback, just somebody who can hand off to Nick Chubb.”
Well, what if that’s not the best option either? Then, uh-oh.
FINAL WORD: There’s every reason to expect Chubb to be as good as last year, and if absolutely needed he could probably still carry a heavy workload again. That’s what makes his mere presence so important for the team this year. He just can’t do it all himself, which is why there will be one more entry to finish up this ranking.