Once upon a time, Keith Marshall was a five-star prospect and the No. 1 rated all-purpose back in the 2012 recruiting class. He signed with Georgia, debuted as a true freshman in 2012 and appeared well on his way to continuing the long line of star tailbacks in Georgia’s illustrious football history.

Unfortunately, his body simply wouldn’t cooperate with the plan in place.

Marshall played in all 14 of Georgia’s games as a true freshman, rushing for more than 700 yards and eight touchdowns while backing up Todd Gurley, who ran for nearly 1,400 yards that year. It’s hard to believe those numbers would stand as Marshall’s career highs, but he’s played in only eight of Georgia’s 26 games the last two seasons, rushing for a combined 270 yards and one touchdown during those two years.

Since then, Gurley elevated himself to an early season Heisman frontrunner a year ago, and he’s now a projected first round pick in the NFL Draft despite rehabbing a torn ACL. Nick Chubb is the new backfield sensation, he of 1,500-yard success despite starting just eight games, and his backup is a fellow rising sophomore in Sony Michel who has UGA fans intrigued by his shifty running style.

All the while, Marshall sat the bench, supported his teammates, rehabbed the injuries and hoped each time that current injury would be his last. To this point, he’s yet to get his wish.

But when head coach Mark Richt announced at the start of Georgia’s spring practice season last week that Marshall is a full go in practice, this after missing the last 10 games of last season with yet another injury, it appeared as though Marshall had turned a corner.

“I think he looks good,” Richt told Online Athens after Georgia’s first spring practice last week. “He needs to get into the right kind of playing shape like everybody else. … He looks like he’s getting where he needs to be. I’m not sure he’s down where he’s going to be, but he’s working his way in that direction.”

No longer does Marshall carry the expectations of Georgia’s most dynamic weapon on offense; that designation now belongs to Chubb. In fact, Marshall doesn’t even carry the burden of a starting spot on the team. And although that means he’ll play less, it also means he could achieve more.

I’ll explain: coming off the bench, Marshall’s body will benefit from receiving fewer carries during the course of a game, a month or a full season. That will obviously help keep Marshall in shape despite his history of injuries.

Not to mention, as a reserve, Richt can pick and choose his moments to use Marshall. The explosive runner with great speed and shiftiness can still make defenders miss on the perimeter, and he still catches passes out of the backfield or lined up on the outside better than most other backs in the conference. Richt and new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer can design certain plays or certain looks for Marshall, and can pick and choose how they use the elite athlete during the course of the year.

Chubb will remain the workhorse, as indicated by his 219 carries last season (29 more than a fellow featured back Josh Robinson, who started the entire season at Mississippi State). But as a change of pace back with a rare, dynamic skill set, Marshall can stay healthy and thrive as a key piece to UGA’s next run at an SEC East title.

“Man, he’s just back,” Chubb told Online Athens. “Keith Marshall’s back. I’m excited about that. I look forward to Keith having a big year.”

“He’s another back we’ve got to compete against,” Michel added. “He’s moving fast. He’s moving good.”

The Bulldogs lack a starting quarterback at this juncture of spring ball, which will make the Dawgs’ running game all the more important. Chubb has a chance to lead the SEC in touches, but Marshall also has a chance to post a healthy number of all-purpose yards playing his particular role within the offense.

He won’t start, and he won’t star like many expected him to when he signed with UGA out of high school. But Marshall’s return from injuries to a potential impact for a contending team as a senior may be the feel-good story of the 2015 SEC season.

Let’s see if his body can cooperate for one final go-round in Athens.