The extra motivation for Georgia's Nick Chubb arrived via text messages from Todd Gurley last season. When Gurley began a four-game suspension in October for accepting money in exchange for autographs, he peppered Chubb with messages of support. Those continued after Gurley suffered a season-ending knee injury in mid-November against Auburn, in his first game back.
By then, Chubb had emerged as one of the nation's most dynamic backs, and eventually he was named SEC Freshman of the Year. He rushed for 1,547 yards with 14 touchdowns. Even with Gurley gone to the NFL—the St. Louis Rams drafted him with the 10th overall pick in the 2015 draft—he is still motivating Chubb. These days, Gurley is challenging Chubb to win the Heisman Trophy, an award Gurley was the frontrunner for last season before his suspension and injury. "It meant a lot," Chubb told The Inside Read.
Chubb views Gurley as "a superhuman," the type of player he never expected to replace last season. "I still don't even know how to explain it," Chubb said. "It's just crazy."
Georgia coach Mark Richt will need Chubb to be at his best this season as the Bulldogs try and capture their first SEC title since 2005. In eight starts last year Chubb rushed for 1,323 yards, breaking the 100-yard barrier in every game. In a 37-27 victory over Louisville in the Belk Bowl, Chubb ran for 266 yards, the second-most in school history behind a performance from 1982 Heisman winner Herschel Walker.
Still, new Bulldogs offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer didn't allow Chubb to carry the ball much during spring practice in an attempt to ease his workload and keep him fresh for the season. Chubb mainly participated in third-down situations and focused on pass protection, a weakness of his last season.
With Georgia breaking in a new starting quarterback this fall—Brice Ramsey, Greyson Lambert and Faton Bauta are competing for the spot in camp—Chubb will be expected to carry a heavy load. "I'm missing the ball even more," Chubb said. "It's burning for me to get out there and go full out."
Chubb has made it a point to learn from the off-the-field woes of Gurley and other former Bulldogs tailbacks in recent years. He refuses to answer his phone when he doesn't recognize the number. In fact, Chubb spends most of his time with his girlfriend, Lacey, whom he admits keeps him in line. The couple's idea of a big night is dinner and a movie.
Chubb is still getting used to his notoriety. He was surprised when a waiter at a crab shack recognized him in Destin Beach, Fla., in May . "He kind of jumped back and his eyes got wide," Chubb said with a laugh.
Through the increased fanfare, Chubb hasn't forgotten Gurley's Heisman challenge. In line with his low-key demeanor, Chubb made no promises except to work tirelessly and to keep pushing his teammates.
Just in case Chubb needs any additional motivation this season, he knows it's just a text message away.
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Lake Oconee: The vacation destination for many coaches
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez jokes that "coaches go to die" at Reynolds Plantation. The resort community is just over an hour southeast of Atlanta on Lake Oconee. It's where many high-profile coaches and their families vacation during the summer. "It's great seeing guys in a relaxed setting," Rodriguez told The Inside Read.
Besides Rodriguez, head coaches who hit Reynolds Plantation this summer include the Arizona Cardinals' Bruce Arians, Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer, Mississippi State's Dan Mullen and Central Florida's George O'Leary. The spot also attracted Virginia Tech associate head coach and running backs coach Shane Beamer, Louisville defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, former Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.
Many of those coaches play in a charity golf tournament in the area in late June that benefits Rodriguez's family's foundation. During Rodriguez's two-week break, he also played golf with Mullen and the younger Beamer.
The coaches usually run into each other on the water and during Fourth of July festivities. Rodriguez first got turned on to Reynolds Plantation in 2008, when he played in the Peach Bowl Challenge's annual charity golf tournament.
It was Rodriguez's in-state pal, Arians, who convinced him last summer to buy a house in the area. As Rodriguez noted, there is plenty of room for more coaches given Lake Oconee's 374-mile shoreline.
"That's the beauty of it," Rodriguez said. "You can still be pretty quiet and private."
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Prescott councils peers after getting jumped during spring break
Dak Prescott got asked plenty of questions during his stint working as a counselor this summer at the annual Manning Passing Academy. But some of the most inquisitive ones for the Mississippi State redshirt senior quarterback weren't football-related. They came from his fellow collegiate counselors, who asked about a brutal attack in March by a group of men that injured him and two of his Bulldogs teammates.
The incident occurred after a spring break concert in Panama City, Fla., and left Prescott with facial lacerations and a chipped tooth. "It's a definite lesson to learn," Prescott told The Inside Read.
When fellow counselors asked about the attack, Prescott made sure to emphasize the potential dangers of large crowds, of which he never used to give a second thought. "You've got to be careful and watch your surroundings," Prescott told them. "People want to take you down and they'll do whatever it takes. You've just got to be smart."
Prescott still goes out socially in Starkville, but the Heisman hopeful said he probably won't take another spring break trip. The scar on his face and chipped tooth he doesn't plan to fix are daily reminders of what can happen. "Everybody's got a story and I'm not afraid to tell mine," Prescott said. "It doesn't bother me one bit."
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Georgia Southern offensive line coach Alex Atkins in high demand
Georgia Southern offensive line coach Alex Atkins thought he knew the number. "It's four, right?" Atkins asked.
The actual number of African-American offensive line coaches in the FBS is five. Besides Atkins, the others are East Carolina's Brad Davis, California's Brandon Jones, UCLA's Adrian Klemm and Syracuse's Jake Moreland. "I hear about it constantly," Atkins told the Inside Read with a laugh. "There's not that many of us."
However, with the number of African-American offensive line prospects on the rise, that group has become coveted in coaching circles. Davis, Jones and Moreland were hired to their respective new jobs earlier this year. And with Georgia Southern winning the Sun Belt in its debut season in the conference last year—it runs a tricky triple-option offense—Atkins was in high demand during the last coaching cycle.
Atkins refused to waiver from his commitment to second-year Georgia Southern coach Willie Fritz. When Fritz hired his staff early last year, he asked his assistants to stay at least two seasons. "I try to be a man of my word," Atkins said. "I'm kind of old-school in that fashion. I tell a man I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it."
Atkins, 31, has coached offensive line for much of his career, and he has invaluable recruiting ties in the South that trace back to his high school playing days in Memphis. Prior to working at Georgia Southern, Atkins was the offensive line coach at Tennessee-Chattanooga for two seasons.
He also coached the offensive line and served as the recruiting coordinator at Itawamba Community College in Mississippi from 2010-11. He spent the '09 season as a graduate assistant at Marshall working with the offensive line and tight ends. Then he began coaching at his alma mater, Tennessee-Martin, where he became the tight ends coach after a year of working as an offensive assistant. He was an offensive guard at the FCS school from 2002-06 and was named an All-America as a senior.
"Black or white, when you hire an offensive line coach, he better be good," Atkins said. "Your guys better be fundamentally sound and get the job done. Hopefully that speaks more volumes than me being black."
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