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O'HARA: Nick Chubb's resume puts him in top handful of RBs

INDIANAPOLIS –Nick Chubb learned more in his four years at Georgia about what it takes for a young running back to survive and thrive than just how to tuck the ball under his arm and run to daylight – or create daylight on his own when necessary.

Chubb found plenty of daylight, beginning as a freshman in 2014 when he rushed for his career-high 1,547 yards – fourth most in one season in school history – in 13 games with eight starts.

View photos of the offensive linemen and running backs meeting the media at the 2018 NFL Combine.

It was one of Chubb's three seasons with more than 1,000 yards rushing. His college resume puts him in the top handful of running backs in this year's draft. It's a group with enough talent and depth for the Detroit Lions to fill a glaring need at the position.

"It's a deep class," Lions general manager Bob Quinn said in his Combine media session this week. "It's a good looking crew. It's guys that have different skillsets – guys that can carry the ball, guys that can catch."

As a freshman, Chubb passed one test on the list of lessons to be learned by being ready when an opportunity might arise.

Chubb delivered immediately when he got his chance because of injuries and a suspension to teammate and future NFL star Todd Gurley. Chubb rushed for 143 yards on 38 carries in his first game, then came back the next week with 202 yards on 30 carries.

He finished off his freshman season with 266 yards in Georgia's victory over Louisville in the Belk Bowl.

Another experience – and not a pleasant one -- was going through the rehab grind to return from a serious knee injury sustained as a sophomore in 2015.

"It was tough for me at first ... just the mental aspect of it," Chubb said at the Combine.

He was ready on opening day of 2016, rushing for 222 yards in a win over North Carolina. In his last two years at Georgia, Chubb had rushing seasons of 1,130 and 1,345 yards respectively and 23 touchdowns combined.

And there's another lesson for all players, not just Chubb. In the case of running backs, they can look back at last year when it was proven again that stars don't all come in the first round. Two standout running backs were third-round picks – Kareem Hunt of the Chiefs, and Alvin Kamara of the Saints.

"Coaches I've talked to me have told me, 'It doesn't matter where you get drafted,'" Chubb said. "You've got to work hard, and work your tail off.

"A lot of free agents have gotten a lot of playing time because they work harder than any other guys."

Chubb showed early in the Combine testing that he has done the work.

Chubb and Saquon Barkley of Penn State led the running backs in the bench press with 29 reps of 225 pounds. To put that into context, only five offensive linemen did more than 20 reps.

Barkley is considered the top running back in the draft. Many consider him No. 1 overall, regardless of position.

Derrius Guice of LSU is likely to be the second back off the board. After that, Chubb is in a group of intriguing prospects with various strengths. The group includes Georgia teammate Sony Michel, Ronald Jones of Southern Cal, Rashaad Penny of San Diego State and Kerryon Johnson of Auburn. Others can jump into the top group –  as others fall out of it.

Chubb, who checked in at the Combine at 5-10 and 227 pounds, is regarded as a tough inside runner who can get yards after contact in tight quarters.

Pass catching is on the list of things he wants to show the scouts.

"I'm pretty well balanced, pretty athletic," he said. "I can run pretty fast and catch the ball."

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