The University of Georgia—is it Tailback U?
From the legendary days of Herschel Walker, Garrison Hearst, Terrell Davis, and Robert Edwards to the modern days of Musa Smith and Thomas Brown, the Bulldogs have had their share of productive backs.
Yet with all the bright spots over the years, the Dawgs have only had nine running backs go for 1,000 yards or more.
That trend is sure to change.
The coming-out party of redshirt freshman Knowshon Moreno seems to have started a evolution of sorts for the Bulldog backfield.
The four-star back from Belford, New Jersey shocked many pundits by rushing for 1,396 yards and 14 touchdowns after spending the fall of 2006 on the scout team—all while sharing the backfield for much of the season with senior Thomas Brown (779 yards and 10 touchdowns). Moreno posted 100-plus yards six times while scoring at least a touchdown in eight games.
If that wasn't enough, he saved his best for last. During the seven-game winning streak to end the season, Moreno tore up defenses for 872 yards and 11 touchdowns on the way to a final ranking of No. 2 for the Bulldogs.
Meanwhile, Georgia keeps rolling in top-tier talent.
The recruiting season of 2007 saw the Bulldogs sign another nationally ranked running back to their repertoire—enter Caleb King. Like Moreno, King was also ranked a four-star running back by Rivals.com.
The talented King finished his career at perennial power Greater Atlanta Christian after a solid career at Parkview High School in Lilburn, Georgia. King totaled 4,643 yards with 44 touchdowns despite missing most of his senior season sidelined with a broken leg.
With the injury came questions. After gaining 20 pounds while injured, many thought King would lose the elusiveness that made him a successful back. That talk soon ended when King proved during fall camp that he had not lost a step.
After the injury to Kregg Lumpkin during the Vanderbilt game, the backfield seemed to be in jeopardy for the Cocktail Party in Jacksonville. King, who looked to be heading for a redshirt, had been so successful in practice that Coach Mark Richt looked pressed to keep him off the field.
King ultimately ended up redshirting during the '07 campaign, saving that all-important extra year of eligibility.
During spring practice the coaching staff saw the Caleb King of old, as he finished with 31 yards on six carries in limited time. Bulldog nation took a collective sigh of relief, easing all worries on whether the Bulldogs would be in good shape if Knowshon were not able to tote the rock.
The 2008 recruiting season brought three new names to the fold: Richard Samuel, Dontavius Jackson, and Carlton Thomas.
Samuel, out of Cass High School in Cartersville, Ga., is Coach Tony Ball's first five-star recruit and Coach Richt's second elite back (Lumpkin). At barely 16 years old, Samuel took over at running back in only his third year of organized football, rushing for 1,342 yards and 19 scores during his junior campaign.
During his senior season, Richard could do nothing but outdo himself, totaling 1,429 yards on 164 carries and 24 scores on his way to all-state honors. Samuel enrolled at mid-year and finds himself third on the depth chart, likely avoiding a redshirt.
Then there is Jackson.
Dontavius Jackson, the Heard County High School standout, was pinned a four-star running back by Rivals, much like his counterparts. A four-year letterman at the Franklin school, Jackson had productive sophomore and junior seasons, totalling 3,836 yards before having his senior year cut short by a wrist injury.
Before the injury, Jackson was able to play just half of his senior season, rushing for 241 yards on 12 carries. Like his fellow signee Samuel, Jackson enrolled at mid-year and participated in spring.
Still plagued by the wrist injury, Jackson is likely headed for a redshirt, finding himself fourth on the depth chart. As crazy as last season proved to be, though, anything can happen.
Need speed? Call Thomas.
Rounding out the 2008 class of backs is Carlton Thomas. The scat back from Frostproof High School in Florida has speed for days. The minuscule back (5'7", 170) was the lowest rated of the backs at three stars, but don't let that fool you. Thomas rushed for 2,386 yards and 24 scores and was a terror on special teams.
Don't believe me? Watch his highlight tape. Thomas is underrated and likes it that way. The Under Armour All-American should be used in many different ways during his time in Athens. It may be sooner than many think.
With an abundance of talent already enrolled, Richt now looks to the future.
His latest catch is Washaun Ealey out of Emmanuel County Institute. The 2009 back is rated as the 11th-best back in the nation and one of its top players.
The ECI star rushed his way to a title and into the record books in 2007. Ealey rushed for 2,982 yards and a Georgia state record 58 touchdowns on his way to capturing the single A state title.
Just an upcoming senior, Ealey looks to stay healthy and make an impact on his way to another state title before enrolling in Athens.
The trend of Georgia Bulldog football might be changing. With lofty expectations directed towards the Dawgs, look for Coach Richt to continue to bring in quality football players.
Georgia looks to be in good shape at the running back position for a few years, and with the talent that resides in the state of Georgia, look for Mark Richt and his coaching staff to keep the top in-state talent from deviating.
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