Jeff Schultz

This AJC sports blogger takes things seriously when he has to, but he really would rather not

Keith Marshall had fast combine time but is he NFL running back?


ATHENS -- Coming out of high school, Keith Marshall was one of the most sought-after recruits in the country. Coming out of college, he's one of the most debated draft prospects.

"In recruiting, I could pretty much choose where I wanted to go --everybody would wine and dine you," the former Georgia running back said Wednesday. "Out here, they want to see you work. You're trying to prove to them that you're capable of playing."

Marshall was among 19 former Georgia players who worked out on Pro Day for approximately 70 NFL general managers, coaches and scouts. He recently ran a 4.31 40-yard-dash at the scouting combine, which was fastest among the players there and earned him a $50,000 prize from adidas, but there remain doubts about his pro potential.

Keith Marshall won $50,000 for posting the fastest 40-yard dash time at the NFL scouting combine. (Photo via @AdidasFballUS o Twitter)

He arrived in Athens as a coveted recruit but was beaten out of the starting job by Todd Gurley, suffered a major knee injury in 2013, didn't play much in 2014 and was unimpressive in 2015, particularly after Nick Chubb went down with an injury and the Bulldogs had a job open.

Marshall attributes problems his senior year to weight gain, saying he is now down to 218 pounds after getting up to 230. But some NFL scouts question his lateral movement and his ability and desire to fight through adversity. He had only 68 carries for 350 yards this season (albeit for a 5.1 per-carry average) but didn't show the dominance that was expected.

But Marshall's combine time opened some eyes, and he said, "I feel as good as I've honestly felt since high school. ... I got too big during the season. For whatever reason, I had to learn how to eat healthy. I lost a lot of weight and body fat. ... You go through a season and you do less conditioning and it's not as hot so you're not sweating as much. Your work load decreases because you’re trying to take care of your body so you end up putting on weight."

NFL scouts talk about the game tape not lying, but in Marshall's case there's so little tape that they'll have to judge him on personal workouts. That makes some teams nervous. NFLdraftscout.com lists Marshall as the 16th best draft-eligible running back (out of 209) and the 179th best player, projecting him as a fifth or sixth round pick.

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff, who was among the team's 11 representatives in attendance, said Marshall, "runs well, moves well. He has some explosiveness to him. Everybody expected big things from him, I was talking to a few personnel people from other teams here. They have their eyes on him because, OK, he has a chance to do (in the NFL) what he didn’t exactly do (at Georgia). But can you project him?"

Three NFL head coaches were in attendance -- the Falcons' Dan Quinn, New England's  Bill Belichick and Buffalo's Rex Ryan. There were about 70 NFL officials watching overall. When asked if he felt pressure, Marshall said, "Not really. I put pressure on myself. Obviously this is a huge interview for us, chasing this dream since I was a little kid. It's pressure but at the same time it's opportunity."

Marshall hasn't been drafted but he's already $50,000 into his career, given his prize money for the 40. Does he have the check?

"Not yet. But it’s coming soon," he said.

He'll need to show more to earn more.

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About the Author

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.