At the start of 2009, Richard Samuel was thought to be the guy who was most capable of running the ball. However, it was apparent after just a few games that he was not the guy that Georgia needed—enter Washaun Ealey—and the dynamic of the running game appeared to change for the better.
His ability to mix both power and speed proved to be a nice compliment to Caleb King’s overall skills and the Georgia run game finally seemed to find some ground as the season progressed.
The tandem of Washaun Ealey and Caleb King proved was every bit as effective as hoped and the pinnacle of their ability to work successfully together came in the Dawgs season-ending triumph over Georgia Tech where the two combined for 349 yards rushing. Ealey and King pushed each other to do well and they finished the year with a combined 1,311 yards on 239 carries (an average of 5.4 yards per carry).
If Georgia can duplicate that production in 2010, there will be little need for Aaron Murray to play hero and Georgia could be well on their way to reigniting the smash mouth brand of football that fans are accustomed to seeing in the SEC.
That said, smart money will be on opposing defenses loading the box with eight-man sets to stem the rushing attack. After all, with a freshman quarterback standing under center, a defense is better served to focus its energy on rattling him than succumbing to the long grind of a running game where eating clock and time of possession play a significant role.
Can King and Ealey overcome the increased attention their jersey numbers will receive or will they wilt under the pressure of expectation?
The chance of success, at least for 2010, seems good if the offensive line can remain consistently effective. There were times last season where it was frustratingly out of sync and completely ineffective.
In the game against Arizona State last year, fans watched flabbergasted as the line failed to block effectively in short-yardage situations. Even more perplexing was the way in which they were at times completely dominated at the point of attack—leading to many a jail break situation on former quarterback Joe Cox.
The line will need to play with more toughness and fire than they did in spots last season or the chance of Georgia being anything close to effective in the SEC will be significantly decreased.
Georgia has plenty of offensive talent present and with the emergence of both Orson Charles and Rantavious Wooten as quality receivers, the passing game has nowhere to go but up if Aaron Murray executes as expected. That being said, if they cannot establish the run, it will be much ado about nothing.
In the end, King and Ealey are both talented enough to keep defenses honest and mixing in the specialized talents of both Carlton Thomas and Dontavious Jackson should keep the ground game diverse.
So, honestly, it just comes down to whether or not both Caleb King and Washaun Ealey are up to the challenge of becoming a bigger focus than they were in the early-going last year.
If they can rise to the challenge, stay healthy, and continue to run as well as they did during the spring when pushed by each other, they should flourish. If that does happen, then the offense should perform well in 2010.
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*Photo courtesy of Val Horvath/Shreveport Times