ATHENS, Ga. – There were a few small swaths of dried blood on freshman tailback Ken Malcome’s silver britches as he hobbled gingerly through Georgia’s football complex Thursday afternoon.
Former Southwest Dekalb prospect Ken Malcome sat out the 2010 season and hopes to contribute for UGA as a redshirt freshman.
It had been a physical practice.
And from the looks of it, Malcome wasn't faring too well. He grimaced as he tried to walk back to the locker room.
But there was pride in pain. He notes that he didn’t sit out this physical practice -- and doesn’t plan to miss the next ones either – despite a lingering groin injury he says continues to hinder his efforts in a four-man tailback race this spring at Georgia.
“It’s kind of frustrating, because I feel like I’m not 100 percent,” Malcome said Thursday. “I feel like I’m not getting what I really can do most of the time. Running-wise, I feel a lot slower. A groin slows you down a little bit, so I can’t really be 100 percent on my cuts and stuff.
"But I’m not going to use that as an excuse. I’m going to keep going in pads every day and get ready for our scrimmage (Saturday) and practice tomorrow.”
At UGA, it's now crunch time at tailback. Like all other contenders at the position, Malcome is trying to impress coaches this spring and accrue precious playing time before five-star signee Isaiah Crowell arrives in the fall.
Why not Malcome?
Between a preseason concussion and late groin injury, the 6-foot, 226-pound Malcome did enjoy, by most accounts, a nice season on the scout team. Veteran defense players attested that it wasn't much fun to tackle Malcome, who started impressing coaches while earning a reputation as a hard-nosed running back.
During various strings of injuries and off-the-field trouble among others at his position, Malcome stayed close to the rotation. He traveled with the team and almost made his way into games on several instances.
But in the end, UGA coaches were able to preserve his redshirt year.
“It was the best thing,” Malcome said. “After a while I started thinking, being real with myself, ‘Was I really ready?’ In high school, I probably ran like eight plays a game. Here it was so many plays. It was kind of hard for me to learn. I wasn’t used to it. Now I’m a year older, and I feel comfortable.”
Mental aspects of the position – as well as that early concussion (logged on a collision with Akeem Dent) – were what had combined to keep Malcome off the field. Everyone involved hopes that’s not the case again in 2011.
“You just want him to be able to be comfortable out there and knowing what to do, right now, to be honest with you,” running backs coach Bryan McClendon said. “That’s what he needs to focus on, making sure he learns the ins and outs of what we’re doing.”
“The game is kind of slowing down for me,” Malcome said. “I’m understanding real football now, not just going out and playing.”
So with opportunity laid out there this spring, Malcome’s nagging injury has been an unwanted irritant, he says. The strain has been there for a while, but he says, “It’s kind of weird for me. It’s like, ‘Why is it hurting so bad now?’”
“But stuff happens. I’ve just got to fight through it,” he said.
Malcome is determined to be able practice through the pain, which is understandable given the heated nature of the competition at his position.
Ealey and Thomas also have been slowed this spring by injuries, and Ealey has been out of the past two practices with a pulled hamstring.
“I’m trying to show toughness,” Malcome said. “It’s hard for me to do a lot of stuff out there, but I try. I may mess up. They might get on me. But hey, it’s the next play. I can redeem myself the next play."