April 10, 2008

Spring Recap: Running backs

No doubt the biggest question Georgia fans wanted answered going into last Saturday's G-Day game was how Caleb King and the rest of the Bulldogs' young running backs would perform.

Call it a coming out party.

King had not played in front of fans since the sixth game of his senior season at Greater Atlanta Christian, while true freshmen Richard Samuel and Dontavius Jackson were making their respective debuts in front of the Bulldog faithful, anxious to get their first look at the talented young duo.

Although the wet conditions caused head coach Mark Richt to shorten the length of the quarters, King and company certainly gave those in attendance at Sanford Stadium a taste of what they can expect in the fall.

Especially King:

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've been seeing 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 starter Knowshon 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 was kind of nervous when I first went out there. I had never seen a crowd that big before," Samuel said. "I believe that I could have played better, but both teams played great on both sides of the ball. That was the most important thing."

Of the freshmen, Samuel has received the most kudos from teammates, not only for being in exceptional physical condition, but the fact that he's taken extra steps to learn the Bulldog offense.

"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 too felt good about his performance, despite the limited carries.

"I was just excited to be out there. I think I've had a good spring, but now I'm looking forward t the summer," Jackson said. "I know I've got to keep working hard and keep focused."

The battle to become Georgia's No. 3 running back will continue well into preseason for Samuel, Jackson and Daniels, who will be joined by freshman Charlton Thomas.

"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."

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