ATHENS, Ga. -- Seconds before the ball is snapped, Georgia Bulldogs running back Nick Chubb’s eyes are working overtime. He locks onto the opposing defensive lineman at the 3-technique -- sometimes the 5 -- anticipating his movements.
As soon as he touches the ball, he waits to see if the lineman will go in or out; his goal is to go opposite him. Next, he directs his body left or right, drawing the linemen and linebackers to the outside. Just when it looks as if he’s going to bounce out, Chubb pivots all of his 220 pounds and cuts toward the middle.
Usually, there’s a crease, and usually Chubb is off to the races.
For as powerful, fast and agile as Chubb is, it’s his vision that makes the super sophomore stand out and helped him burst onto the national scene last year with 1,547 yards and 14 touchdowns in just eight starts as a freshman.
“Back in high school, I wasn’t really taught anything. I had a lot of freedom in high school,” Chubb said. “They would just toss me the ball, and I would run. I know how to run the ball now.”
And as long as his contacts are clear and secure, he’s nearly invincible.
“If they come out, I’m coming out,” Chubb said with a laugh.
“That’s definitely my weakness right there -- my contacts [falling out].”
Ironically, Chubb lost his contacts during Georgia's Belk Bowl win over Louisville and proceeded to set an SEC bowl record with 266 rushing yards on 33 carries.
“He just has a different mentality than most," left tackle John Theus said.
“I haven’t seen a runner like him.”
Because of NCAA issues involving starter Todd Gurley and his later ACL injury, Chubb was thrust into the spotlight earlier than expected. All Chubb did was grab the reins with 7.1 yards per carry and eight 100-yard performances.
After what he considers a rocky, nerve-filled first start at Missouri (38 carries for 143 yards and a touchdown) on Oct. 11, Chubb said he hit his stride for the rest of the season the following week against Arkansas, running for a blistering 202 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 6.7 yards per rush in the process.
In back-to-back games, the freshman crossed the 30-carry mark, something Gurley never did at Georgia. Chubb’s stamina and toughness kept him mobile for most of the season, and even when he tired, his mental fortitude kept him on the field and off the sidelines.
“I was tired almost every game, but I didn’t really show it,” Chubb said.
“If you’re tired, just go in and score and get off the field. That’s my mode, I just go in and score and get off the field, and I won’t be tired anymore.”
That has been Chubb’s mantra since he started playing flag football as a 7-year-old in Cedartown, Georgia, which lies two and a half hours northwest of Athens. Growing up with two future Division I siblings, Chubb was uber-competitive very early. There were countless full-pad, one-on-one drills with older brother Zach, and playful jawing with his father, Henry, who played running back at Valdosta State, about earning more trophies than him.
That competitive nature flourished thanks to recruiting late in high school. Like Gurley, he played second to backfield mate Sony Michel in the rankings. He used the lack of love as motivation with his training. His coaches teased him about it, and the quiet bruiser fed off it before and after he got on campus.
“Sony’s my boy and all, but coming in that’s all I heard: this five-star kid,” Chubb said. “He’s a great running back, and that pushed me harder, and it pushed my [high school] coaches harder.”
Chubb is a physical specimen. He's obsessed with squatting, routinely packing six 45-pound plates on each side of him and trying to push past his max of 650 pounds. Since his high school days, he has skipped out on spring break to work out or participate in state track meets. This past spring he ditched the beach for a week of training with his old high school coach.
Chubb is so football that he recently told his father to get him a puppy instead of a brand new Dodge Charger his dad offered to buy him.
“He can be the best you’ve ever seen,” wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell said. “That speaks enough for itself, and there’s no other way to put it. His talent makes him stand out, but his work ethic makes him unstoppable.”
Chubb’s arrival at Georgia didn’t come with a ton of fanfare, and now he’s being compared to Heisman winner Herschel Walker. Now, he’s a hunted Heisman contender, whom opponents will continually gun for this season.
He’s the one to stop, and he must be stopped.
That’s fine because Chubb just wants the ball even more this fall. Just hand him the rock and let him work.
“That’s all I need,” he said.
And a supply of fresh contacts, of course.