A sure sign of acceptance is a nickname. And if that indeed is the case, then Georgia’s Brendan Douglas must feel like one of the more beloved Bulldogs in the locker room.
At this point, the freshman tailback has been called so many different names by his teammates he doesn’t know to what to answer anymore.
“Buzz, that’s what I call him,” quarterback Aaron Murray said. “The Great White Hope. Some others. There’s a lot of nicknames going around right now.”
Said fellow freshman tailback J.J. Green: “White Lightning, White AP, Buzz Lightyear, Stocky. He has a new nickname every week.”
“They say I look like him,” Douglas said with a laugh. “It’s just all fun and games. There’s a lot of them. Every time I hear one I’m like, ‘what?’”
No matter what you call him, the Bulldogs are glad that Douglas is answering their call on the field. Along with Green, Douglas has stepped in to make the loss of star tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall to injury almost bearable.
Green and Douglas combined for 242 yards of offense against Missouri on Saturday. Douglas had 70 yards rushing on 14 carries and added 43 yards on six catches, including a 7-yard touchdown.
Suffice it to say, Douglas is considerably more active at the halfway point of his first season at Georgia than he expected to be when he left Augusta and Aquinas High School five months ago.
“I guess you could say it’s been a surprise,” said Douglas, who committed to Georgia Tech before accepting the Bulldogs’ late scholarship offer. “I came in hoping to play a little bit at least. Of course, I didn’t think I’d be playing this much. But with the injuries, you just have to give the coaching staff credit for getting us prepared.”
Douglas entered the season as the Bulldogs’ No. 4 tailback and a short-yardage specialist. He first made his presence known against then-No. 6 South Carolina in the second game of the season. He carried the ball five times — including four in a row — on Georgia’s eight-play, 81-yard drive to kill the last 8:28 of the clock in a 41-30 win.
Since then, the Bulldogs lost Gurley to an ankle injury against LSU and Marshall to a season-ending knee injury against Tennessee. Gurley has returned to practice this week, but it appears unlikely he’ll play Saturday.
“It’s tough to come in there and replace them,” Douglas said. “They’re great backs. It’s disappointing we lost them. Hopefully Todd will be back soon. We’ll see what happens.”
As for all the nicknames, Douglas does look a bit like a superhero. His prominent chin sits atop a thick neck and above an unusually mature physique for a 19-year-old freshman. He barely reaches 5-foot-11, but weighs in at a robust 220 pounds. And his muscles aren’t just for show.
Douglas has wowed his teammates in the weight room and plays the game with a low-to-the-ground running style that makes him a sort of tackling algorithm for defenders.
“When Brendan came in we were all like, ‘yo, who is this kid?’” said Green, a midyear enrollee. “He was this big, buff kid, player-ready. You looked at him and we’re like, ‘ain’t no way anybody’s going to tackle him.’ He runs the ball hard, and that takes a toll on a defense. Sometimes defenders will turn that down. …
“The first time he touched the ball he was moving things out of his way. It was instant respect.”
Of course, Douglas’ initial season has not been without flaw. He was chugging along nicely Saturday, trucking Missouri defenders with regularity until he fumbled late in the second quarter. The Tigers’ recovered at their own 6, a devastating turnover that the Bulldogs ultimately never overcame.
Douglas came back with 43 yards and another 9-yard reception in the second half. But the damage was done.
“You have to let it go, but it’s hard to, definitely,” Douglas said. “I tried to come out in the second half and make up for it. But it’s something you just can’t make up for. I’m still disappointed about it. I’ve got to let it go now and move on to the next game.”