June 21, 2013

Eye on the Tigers?

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If Keith Marshall has any extra motivation for Georgia's opener Aug. 31 against Clemson, he's keeping his feelings inside.

If you followed the running back's recruitment from Mallard High in Raleigh, N.C., you know the story.

One of the nation's most highly-recruited players, rumors swirled the night before Marshall chose the Bulldogs that he was actually going to choose the Tigers, and nobody really knew for sure until he donned a Georgia cap at his commitment ceremony at the school.

During his recruitment, Marshall made a number of trips to Clemson and became quite close with its coaches and some of its players.

But just because he holds a certain familiarity with the Tigers, Marshall claims he won't hold any special motivation to play against the school he almost chose.

"No, not really," Marshall said. "We're going to be motivated, just like we would any first game of the year because it will have been six months since we played. It's just another football game, but we don't want to blow it out of proportion. It's going to be a great game between two great teams."

Not that there's not a few old friends he's looking forward to seeing.

"Besides the coaches, I know Sammy (wide receiver Sammy Watkins) real good and Tajh (quarterback Tajh Boyd)," he said. "I still talk to Sammy from time to time, but right now they're competition and we're trying to win."

Marshall figures to play a key role in Georgia's effort to do just that.

Last year, the 5-foot-11, 215-pounder burst onto the collegiate scene with 117 carries for 759 yards and eight touchdowns, forming a formidable 1-2 punch with fellow freshman Todd Gurley.

The 2013 version of Marshall certainly appears ready to take his game to a higher level.

Although he said he weighs 215 pounds, Marshall is noticeably more chiseled and appears to be in great shape after being slowed by a hamstring injury again last spring.

"I'm a lot healthier than I was last year," Marshall said. "I've worked hard to get more flexible and get more knowledge about the game, pretty much the same as I've been doing."

Marshall was also part of a Georgia offense that scored a school-record 529 points, and with all but the graduated duo of Tavarres King and Marlon Brown back, expectations are the Bulldogs should at least come close to that number again.

But will they?

Marshall said offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has already taken steps to make sure complacency doesn't set it.

"Last spring Coach Bobo was harder on us than he was all last year so we won't get complacent," Marshall said. "He made sure we had a crisp spring practice. He pushed us to get better and not accept the fact that we had a good year."

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