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August 2, 2008
Georgia coach Mark Richt isn't trying to do his best Vince Dooley impersonation when he talks about the current state of the Bulldogs' backfield.
After all, in sophomore Knowshon Moreno, Georgia boasts one of the nation's most acclaimed runners and a player many consider a prime candidate for the Heisman Trophy.
But Richt is also a realist, and admits that the overall depth of the position will remain a concern until Georgia's talented young backups start gaining some experience.
"Let's face it, Knowshon, he's a heck of a tailback, but I have zero game experience behind him. Caleb King is a redshirt freshman, and three other guys (Richard Samuel, Dontavius Jackson and Carlton Thomas) are true freshmen. There's no other game experience besides Knowshon," Richt said. "What looks like a tremendous strength may not be, especially if he tweaks his ankle and he's out for three weeks or something."
Richt's concerns don't end there.
With Brannan Southerland expected to still miss the first three games with his injured foot, Richt does believe that backup Shaun Chapas can handle the bulk of the load while Fred Munzenmaier serves his two-game suspension.
Still, Richt found it necessary to move linebacker Justin Fields and Benjamin Boyd to fullback for at least the first couple of games.
"We've got some talented guys, they just need some experience," Richt said. "The only way to get them experience is to get them on the field."
No doubt Richt can't wait to see more of King, who turned in an impressive performance during Georgia's annual G-Day game.
After his first rush resulted in no gain, King broke off a 12-yard run and went on to finish with 31 yards on six attempts.
Not only did the 205-pounder show his ability to run between the tackles, King displayed the quickness and elusiveness that made him one of the country's most recruited running backs coming out of high school when put on a nifty spin move to avoid a tackle by linebacker Darryl Gamble.
"We saw that kind of thing all spring from Caleb," quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "Nothing he does comes at a surprise."
King is expected to provide a dangerous compliment to Moreno, a tandem coaches no doubt hope will rival the success of former Arkansas running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.
Moreno played only sparingly in the G-Day game, rushing for 16 yards on just three carries, leaving the bulk of the action to Samuel, Jackson and Kalvin Daniels, who enter preseason still battling for the No. 3 tailback spot.
Samuel led the trio with 13 yards on a team-high 7 carries, with Jackson picking up five yards on two carries and Kalvin Daniels with six yards on two attempts.
"I've felt comfortable out there," Samuel said in a recent interview with UGASports. "I think I'm in pretty good shape. I'd love to be able to play." He just might.
Of the freshmen, Samuel has received the most kudos from teammates, kudos that continued through the team's voluntary summer workouts.
"I'm always trying to improve myself and learn more. I hope it shows up in the fall," Samuel said. "I think I've come a long way since spring began. I know the plays a lot better than I did, and I feel that I'm starting to pick up the speed of the game."
Jackson is also hopeful about his chances.
"I think I had a good spring, but now I'm looking forward to preseason," Jackson said. "I know I've got to keep working hard and keep focused."
Although Samuel appears to have the edge in the battle to become Georgia's No. 3 tailback, the battle should continue well into August before Richt finally makes up his mind.
"As a whole, I think we've got some good backs," King said. "It's going to be fun to see what we all can do."