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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tailback Battle Gets Tighter

At this point, he has no idea who the No. 1 tailback will be this season, but Mark Richt isn't worried about finding someone who can get the job done. The way he sees it, he's simply narrowing a field of worthy candidates.

Spring practice began and ended with a hazy picture at the position after Knowshon Moreno left early for the NFL draft. Third-year sophomore Caleb King was given a chance to solidify his grasp on the job of starter -- he's the most experienced among Georgia's five tailbacks -- when both Richard Samuel and Dontavius Jackson were unable to go due to injuries.

While King earned some regular praise from coaches for his improved pass protection, he didn't put his name atop the depth chart in permanent ink by any stretch of the imagination, however, leading many Georgia fans to worry that the once highly touted prospect might end up a bust. That's not the case, Richt said.

"I think a lot of people may have read between the lines that we're not happy with what Caleb is doing," Richt said. "That's not true at all. I've very pleased with his progress. He has become an outstanding pass protector, he understands the system better, and he's an outstanding runner. He's still a relatively young guy in his career. He's certainly the No. 1 guy going into camp."

King may begin camp atop Georgia's depth chart, but Richt admits, that's a tenuous grasp. While Jackson was able to get a few snaps before the Bulldogs' spring game, Samuel didn't participate at all during spring practice, and freshman Washaun Ealey has yet to practice with the team at all. Redshirt freshman Carlton Thomas managed to turn some heads this spring and get his name into the mix, too.

In the end, Richt said, King's competition was mostly himself, and while he made strides, it wasn't enough to offer coaches a fair basis for comparison.

"With Richard not being able to practice and Dontavius only getting to practice little bit, it's hard to truly have any comparison to say one guy is better than the other guy," Richt said. "So I'm glad we'll go through camp with a bunch of healthy tailbacks."

Richt nearly has that full contingent in place already, with only Samuel still less than 100 percent. But even Samuel has made great strides and should be ready for the start of fall practice in less than two months.

"He can do everything but a power clean from the floor," Richt said. "Everything else he can do, so when we start football practice, there will be no limitation for him, and I don't think what he missed will keep him from being 100 percent ready to go."

1 comment:

Mike In Valdosta said...

While we will surely miss Moreno and all that he brings to the field, we should fair fairly well in the rushing game behind this yet TBD line. That should also help Cox, both in keeping the D honest and from a pass protection standpoint.

I still can't help but wonder what kind of numbers Moreno would have put up this year.