Looking ahead: running backs

Of all the questions that will surround the Georgia football team heading into spring practice, just who winds up replacing Knowshon Moreno as the starting tailback might be at the top of the list.
Unlike quarterback where Joe Cox will go in No. 1 on the depth chart as the likely replacement to Matthew Stafford, there's no clear-cut choice as far as running back is concerned.
Both Caleb King and Richard Samuel struggled in part-time action last fall, and although both will certainly be in the thick of the competition, it shouldn't automatically be assumed that one of the two will wind up winning the job.
While that's certainly possible, redshirts Dontavius Jackson and Carlton Thomas will begin the spring on an equal plateau.
"That's what spring ball is all about," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said during Georgia's bowl practice. "To give guys chances to go out and make plays and to find out whom your playmakers are and how you're going to use them going forward into fall."
Jackson, who battled a myriad of injuries during his redshirt year, might be some an afterthought to some. ranked the 5-foot-10, 195-pounder as the nation's 8th-best running back coming out of Heard County in 2007, despite the fact that he broke his wrist in the season-opener his senior year.
As a junior, Jackson rushed for 2,462 yards and 29 touchdowns in leading Heard County to an undefeated season in 2006.
Thomas, despite his smallish stature (5-foot-7, 171 pounds), has opened some eyes as well.
If there was an award for having the best bowl practice, the Frostproof, Fla. would have been the winner as he opened the eyes of coaches while running against the No. 1 and No. 2 defensive units in preparation for the Bulldogs' game against Michigan State.
His senior year at Frostproof, Thomas rushed for 2,386 yards and 25 touchdowns, finishing with 6.683 yards. He also displayed exceptional skills as both as a punt and kickoff returner, two more position he'll get a crack to help the Bulldogs at next fall.
"I'm sure Dontavius and Carlton are very excited and say 'Hey, this might be my time," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "I'm sure with this knowledge these guys are going to get ready to practice even harder than before."
Richt feels the same about Samuel and King, who fell out of favor with coaches following blocking issues against Florida. Still, he finished the season as the team's second-leading rusher behind Moreno with 61 carries for 247 yards, followed by Samuel who picked up 133 yards on 26 carries, an average of 5.1 yards per rush.
Oh, and for anyone still suggesting that Samuel will be moved to linebacker, a position he excelled at during his four years at Cass, Richt says it isn't happening.
"Right now we've got four backs in the program who I think right now are very excited about their future," Richt said. "We feel we've got some guys who are going to be ready for their opportunity."
Incoming freshman Washaun Ealey will get a close look once he arrives during the summer.