HOOVER, Ala. - Georgia coach Mark Richt said he isn't laying awake in bed at night worrying about his young running back corp.
No, it wasn't supposed to be this way.
But when Washaun Ealey was released from his scholarship and Caleb King failed to maintain his grades, it suddenly left the Bulldogs in somewhat of a lurch.
That was part of the reason Richt agreed to move redshirt junior Richard Samuel from linebacker back to running back, joining junior Carlton Thomas, redshirt freshman Ken Malcome and true freshmen Isaiah Crowell.
But despite the youth, Richt doesn't seem overly concerned.
"I've seen so many young backs play well that I'm not fretting right now. I don't lay away at night saying 'My goodness, what are we going to do now?' I just don't. We've got some guys on this team that can be highly productive offensively. Will we find a back that carries it 20 times a game? Maybe we will, maybe we won't," he said. "I do think moving Richard Samuel back was very much needed and if anybody needed to be soothed a little bit, that should do it because he's a very mature, physical man. He's a mature man in the way he goes about his business and he certainly has two years in our system of knowing what we do."
Richt said that Samuel will go into preseason atop depth chart at running back.
He also believes the 238-pounder will more than hold his own.
"He will be in the meeting room and he will be a great example of how to prepare and how to play the position of tailback. I know that he holds onto the ball well," Richt said. "I know he'll strike a backer, I know he's fast and I know he's powerful. He will play hard. He's not interested in dodging many people but he is what he is. I've seen a lot of backs with that style. He's not going to dodge a lot of folks but when they hit you, they're going to drive their feet and make it tough to bring them down."
Thomas won't play against Boise State
Richt did not give a specific reason but confirmed that Thomas will be suspended for the season-opener against Boise State.
"All I'll say on that is Carlton won't play Game 1 and I'll say team rules and you guys can figure out whatever you want," Richt said. "That's what I'm going to go with."
Richt said Thomas will play in Week 2 against South Carolina.
The Bulldog coach was then asked if any other players might have to miss the game.
"I'll say this, if there's anybody else we need to announce we will announce at the appropriate time, which is not today," Richt said. "We'll be ready to play on Sept. 3. I can promise you that."
Players excited for Nike Pro Combat jerseys
This week's announcement that Georgia will wear Nike Pro Combat jerseys for its game against Boise State was exciting news for the players, Richt said.
"We had a team meeting last night. Nike was gracious enough to allow our team to see the uniforms prior to everybody else seeing it," said Richt, who laughed while telling the story how he let the Bulldogs in on the news.
"So, our meeting starts at 6. I'm looking at the clock; it strikes 6, time to start the meeting. I notice a couple of players missing.
"I asked Brad Hutcherson (Director of Football Operations), who is missing. He said Boykin and Murray.
"I take my pad, I slam it to the ground, I say a few choice words about the lack of leadership and things and told (Hutcherson) to see if you can find those guys.
"He walks out the room. Within a couple of moments in come Boykin and Murray decked out in the Pro Combat Nike jersey, the whole uniform, head to toe. The players, first of all, Coach is mad, real quiet, nobody said a word. Those guys came in the room fully decked out. Everybody didn't say a word for a while, and then they kind of went berserk. It was fun. There was lot of energy in the room; a lot of excitement."
Richt said Nike officials asked that no pictures or descriptions of the jerseys be given out to the public until they are revealed at Picture Day on Aug. 20.
"Is this going to help us win the game? I can promise you it won't win the game for us because I think Boise State is going to be wearing some of theirs, too. But its fun," Richt said. "I'll say this - college football is a grind. It is a grind on the coaches and it is a grind on the players. We love it, we're not complaining. But anytime you can have some fun with your guys, I think it's good to do that. To wear those uniforms is going to be something that they're really going to enjoy. And if we win, it was a great idea (smiling)."
Jones gets a word in
One of the day's funnier moments occurred when center Ben Jones got in a question to Richt during the Q&A portion of Thursday's session.
"Coach Richt, do you trust the offensive line?" Jones asked.
Richt didn't miss a beat.
"Let me say this. You weren't in here when I was bragging about the offensive line. They're worried about the depth of our offensive line; I'm not worried about the depth if nobody gets hurt," Richt said. "I think Ben Jones, I said a minute ago and I'll say it again, he is the best center in America. I think he's going to win the Remington (Award). I think he's a great competitor. I'll never forget when we were recruiting the guy, he got in our camp, we were doing a little pass-rush drill and he was just whooping everybody.
"Finally, I stepped in and said "Look, I want every defensive lineman to lineup. One by one, I want you to go against Ben, play after play after play. After about I don't know how many, 10 or 12, he was finally exhausted and somebody beat him. But he's a fierce competitor. He's mean as a snake on the field but he knows what he's doing. He's a great leader, a great football player. I'm glad we got him.
"When you got him at the center of your offensive line, you know you're going to have a good line. I have a lot of faith in you guys, and you personally.
"Good question, by the way, Ben."
Jones laughed that the reason he did it was because someone made a dare.
"I came in and they were like I bet you won't ask Coach Richt a question, and I was like, give me that microphone, I'll think of something," Jones said.
Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at [email protected]