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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

King Sees Success, Coaches Don't

It was supposed to be the opportunity Caleb King had been waiting for. With Richard Samuel and Dontavius Jackson out with injuries and Knowshon Moreno off to the NFL, the job of Georgia's top running back was King's for the taking.

Through nearly three weeks of practice, however, King hasn't even established himself as the best running back healthy enough to tote the ball.

"Nobody's been consistent enough where we've said, hey, we've got our No. 1 guy," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "Carlton Thomas has probably been the most consistent guy, but he's still got some issues in pass protection."

For the undersized Thomas, his technique needs to be immaculate in order to halt an oncoming defender, but blocking was the biggest issue plaguing King entering the spring, too.

"In high school, you didn't really block. You pretty much just pushed 'em down. It's a little different in this arena," King said. "You can't really see the blocking on the stats, but if you watch the film, I'm blocking pretty good."

While that may be the case, head coach Mark Richt wasn't exactly wowed by either of the running backs' performances during the team's first scrimmage of the spring, and it was about more than blocking.

"I thought it was hot and cold really," Richt said. "There were a couple of times we should have hit it up there a little more physically and I didn't see it. It was pretty inconsistent overall. I thought King was hot and cold. Carlton didn't get many yards-per-carry, but so far I think he's been a little more consistent in his tempo and his willingness to stick it on in there."

For the past two years, former running backs coach Tony Ball has made a point of riding King a bit harder than others, hoping to keep the talented tailback motivated and working up to his potential. Now that Bryan McClendon has taken over the position, he said motivation hasn't been the issue. While he agreed that neither tailback has pulled ahead in the race for the starting job, he said it isn't because neither has made any progress.

"It's tough to see one separate one from another because both of them are learning quickly and starting to look a little more comfortable out there," McClendon said. "The biggest thing that I want to look at was the number of missed assignments, and we had a very low number of missed assignments. That's been exciting to see."

King said he doesn't expect anyone will grab a stranglehold on the position before Samuel and Jackson return this summer anyway, but he said he is pleased with the improvements he has made.

As far as satisfying his coaches, however, he thinks that might be a tall order no matter how well he plays.

"I believe the coaches are never going to feel like that," King said. "I think you can always improve or do better than what they say. But them pushing on me, that's just making me work harder."

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