Georgia enters a New Year’s Day bowl clash with Oklahoma in a game that has National Championship implications. The Bulldogs feature what some consider the top backfield in college football. With Nick Chubb stealing most of the headlines, fellow running back Sony Michel deserves a great deal of attention as well. Monday’s game will offer a perfect opportunity for scouts and fantasy owners alike to get a glimpse of two of the top backs in the 2018 class.
Georgia has a long and storied history of producing elite level running backs, and the current crop is no different. While Nick Chubb immediately looked like a world beater in 2014 as a freshman replacing Todd Gurley, Michel has produced a quietly solid career. Coming out of high school as the sixth-ranked RB, Michel would have easily been the lead back at most college programs. Instead Michel had to work to get on the field and make the most of his opportunities in a crowded and talented backfield.
As a freshman, Michel acquitted himself well, accounting for 516 yards from scrimmage and 6 touchdowns on limited opportunities. His 6.4 yards per carry as well as 15.1 yards per reception showed the big play potential of the young back. Unfortunately for Michel, Chubb proved himself as an All-American, rushing for over 1,500 yards and scoring 20 TDs.
In 2015, Michel got his chance to prove himself as a lead back when Chubb went down with a season-ending knee injury. From Week 8 on, Michel operated as the feature back in the Bulldog offense, averaging 104 rushing yards per game during that span. On the year, Michel finished with 1,136 yards rushing and 10 TDs. Michel also showed his versatility in the passing game, chipping in 26 receptions for 270 yards.
2016 and 2017 proved to be very similar. Michel established himself as a reliable part of the Georgia rushing attack, and the time share between Michel and Chubb was one of the best in college football. With lead back opportunities limited, Michel still managed to put up career marks of 3,334 rushing yards and 35 TDs on 5.9 YPC. With 60 receptions and 570 yards receiving, Michel proved himself as a versatile asset.
2018 RB PROSPECTS
Many in the scouting community put a fourth or fifth round grade on Sony Michel coming into the 2017 season. With his physical play, decisiveness, versatility, and explosiveness, many are now questioning where Michel stacks up in the RB pecking order. A strong bowl showing could help move the Gerogia product further up the list. At 5-foot 11-inches and 215-pounds, Michel meets the requisites of a three-down starter at the pro level.
While most publications rank Saquon Barkley as the clear leader among 2018 prospects, the order immediately following is not as clear. Derrius Guice (production), Nick Chubb (injury), Bryce Love (size), and Ronald Jones (size) all have concerns that keep them from being perfect prospects. Michel has the profile and versatility that places him competitively with any of those prospects. Combine performance and landing spot will ultimately decide how high Michel rises up this list.
Sony Michel may not have eye-popping stats at first glance, especially compared to some of the other RBs in this draft. He does, however, have a unique situation playing in a time share with another top prospect in Chubb. With box score scouting unable to paint the full picture, all eyes will be on him against Oklahoma. A good performance in such a high-profile game could help shape views of Michel.
Rumors in the scouting community have some factions preferring Michel over the more-hyped Chubb, noting that his game is more NFL ready. Whispers even have Michel being a Day 2 pick. Don’t be surprised if Michel is the type of player who has a better career as a pro than he did in college. Make sure Michel is on your radar come rookie draft time.