November 2, 2011

Backs holding their own

As the Georgia Bulldogs spent the early portion of Wednesday's practice focusing on special teams, running backs Brandon Harton and Kyle Karempelis stood alert while waiting for offensive drills to begin.

Off in the distance, Isaiah Crowell, Carlton Thomas and Ken Malcome served as "guests" of strength coach Joe Tereshinksi in his infamous "Pit" strapped to harnesses and using chains to pull weighted power sleds for distances of approximately 40 yards.

For the three players, the time with Tereshinski served as a little "bonus work" before they serve their suspensions Saturday against New Mexico State, while Harton and Karempelis continue their cram session to carry the running back load.

"I think one of them (Harton) knows the plays pretty good and I think the other one's (Karempelis) learning at a very rapid rate," Richt said. "I think we'll be all right. We've just got to block a little better up front, you know, and hopefully make these guys feel as welcomed and comfortable as possible. That's going to be the goal."

Harton is expected to start Saturday's game (12:30, CBS) with the Aggies, but Karempelis is slated to get some work as well.

Richt said the former Wesleyan star appears to be holding his own.

"Watching Kyle, he doesn't look overwhelmed if you just sit there. When the ball is snapped, you see him react and do his thing. He's an instinctive runner," Richt said. "At least fundamentally I'm seeing good ball security, the mindset of securing the ball when there's any kind of traffic. He's caught the ball well out of the backfield. In pass protection he's putting his hat on the right guy; he's actually done pretty well but I'd have to guess his mind is racing pretty much right now."

Neither Harton nor Karempelis were made available by Richt to speak with reporters for comment Wednesday, but fullback Bruce Figgins said he's confident both youngsters will do just fine.

"I like them. I always thought they could get the job done. I don't think it will be a big drop off," Figgins said. "Brandon had a real good spring and summer. He knows the offense. Kyle is new, that's the biggest thing, but I think this is a good game for him. He'll be OK."

Figgins joked that the 18th-ranked Bulldogs (6-2) might have the smallest set of tailbacks of any team in the country Saturday afternoon.

A redshirt sophomore, Harton is 5-foot-6 and is listed at 174 pounds, while the preferred freshman walk-on Karempelis is 5-foot-9 and weighs 180.

"That's the funniest thing," Figgins said. "It's funny to watch them on film, but they can move. They'll squirm out of there some way."

Richt has taken notice before.

"I've observed him (Karempelis) all through camp and I've been very impressed with him," Richt said. "There's a couple of times in camp where we were a little bit low, somebody pulled a muscle, Isaiah had something and Kyle got a bunch of work that I'm sure is going to be real helpful for him, and us too to put him in there and let him compete for the starting job right now."

It remains to be seen if the pair will have company in the Bulldog backfield.

Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo hinted on Tuesday that cornerbacks Brandon Boykin, Branden Smith, Nick Marshall and Damian Swann might also see snaps on offense as well.

Boykin, of course, has actually seen his fare share of offensive reps and will have the unique distinction of being the Bulldogs' leading rusher come Saturday having carried five times for 95 yards, 80 of those yards coming on his touchdown run in the opener against Boise State.

Smith is no stranger to offense either, with three carries for 21 yards this fall, while Marshall (who was also held out of post-practice interview by Richt) and Swann have yet to touch the ball on offense yet this year.

"I didn't get a look (at offense) today, but the week is not over," Swann said. "They (coaches) mentioned it, but it hasn't been put into action yet."

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at [email protected]