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Monday, January 4, 2010

UGA Notes: Samuel Expects to Stay at RB

He opened the year as Georgia’s bell-cow tailback, but the pickings got slim for Richard Samuel by midseason, and 2010 remains a bit of a mystery at this point.

But while rumors have swirled surrounding a potential move to linebacker for the rising junior, Samuel said he’s happy to stay right where he’s at. In fact, that’s the plan – for now.

“Going into spring my thought is that I’m still going to be playing running back,” Samuel said. “If coaches decide to do anything with me, I’ll be glad to do whatever helps the team win.”

Head coach Mark Richt said that there could be several position changes in the works for Georgia players, but he declined to comment on any specifics, saying those announcements would likely come following national signing day when the Bulldogs have a better idea of what their new recruiting class will look like.

“I'm not saying there's some certainty that there'll be some changes but there's going to be some thought about that as a staff,” Richt said. “What you want to do at this point of the season, which is very young and brand new, is to get everybody in the right spot where they'll have the greatest chance of success.”

That’s the lingering question surrounding Samuel, who landed the starting tailback job to start the year after a strong fall camp coupled with an injury to Caleb King made the decision easy.

Samuel had 51 carries in Georgia’s first three games and had more than 85 yards of total offense in each, including a 16-carry, 104-yard game against Arkansas. But his yards-per-carry slipped throughout the early season, and when King returned from injury and freshman Washaun Ealey exploded onto the scene, Samuel’s role virtually disappeared. He failed to earn a single touch in any of the Bulldogs’ final four games.

Georgia has two running back commitments for 2010 so far -- Ken Malcolme and Alexander Ogletree (who is likely to end up at fullback or linebacker) -- and King and Ealey appeared to have secured the bulk of the carries out of the backfield by year's end.

“He got some nagging injuries, and I think he lost a little confidence at times,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “Richard’s a guy who needs some confidence, too. He’s relatively new at playing the position and developing those instincts. We’re not disappointed in Richard that he’ll never play running back. I think he has a bright future and a lot of ability, but it’s growing into his role. He just hasn’t figured it out totally yet, but I would not say Richard Samuel’s done and he’ll never play running back.”

He may not be done, but Richt publicly acknowledged that a move to linebacker, where Samuel played in high school, was a possibility earlier in the season. So the speculation continues, and that’s fine with Samuel.

While he wants to stay at running back, and he believes he can ultimately succeed there, he said the difference between playing tailback and linebacker isn’t such a broad leap for him.
“I liked both of them about the same,” Samuel said of his high school days. “It’s hard to choose between running back and linebacker.”

QB BATTLE BEGINS

When Georgia left the field following an Independence Bowl win over Texas A&M, it officially marked the end of Joe Cox’s career at Georgia and the start of a new era at the quarterback position.

Rising junior Logan Gray will enter the spring as the Bulldogs’ only experienced quarterback, but the Georgia coaches are still waiting to learn whether Gray even plans to play quarterback when practice begins again.

"I think he's trying to make a decision right now,” head coach Mark Richt said of Gray, who has considered moving to wide receiver where he could earn more playing time down the road. “I don't know for certain what he'll come up with but we want to respect what he wants to do. We didn't put a timetable on that."

Whether or not Gray swaps positions, it appears that freshmen Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger are far enough along that the coaching staff believes Georgia can win with one of them as the starter in 2010.

While both redshirted last season, Cox said they both showed enough on the practice field to inspire confidence.

“They both have the ability and they’re both really smart kids,” Cox said. “I look at them and I know that both of them are past where I was my true freshman year in understanding what’s going on. They adjusted rather quickly, and once both of them get a chance to compete with the first team and understand that it’s open and this is their chance to play, that does a lot for your confidence level.”

Confidence has been a key for both young quarterbacks, but both have made strides, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said.

For Mettenberger, the goal was to improve his footwork and fundamentals to match his impressive arm.

“He’s got to continue to improve with his foot quickness,” Bobo said. “Just seeing a lot of strides there, and he’s not just relying completely on his arm.”

Murray was clearly the better performer in Georgia’s scrimmages, and his preparation has been lauded by coaches and teammates, despite his role as a redshirt. But there are still small things to polish, Bobo said, if Murray wants to step into the starter’s role with confidence.

“Being able to progress faster, seeing it faster and understand the concepts, and that will come with reps,” Bobo said. “He can move in the pocket, he can use his legs and he has a really quick release. He can get rid of the ball quickly. He’s got a lot of confidence and belief that he can get it done, and that carries over when he’s in the huddle.”

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT?

It’s hard for coaches to ask much more of A.J. Green, the All-SEC wide receiver who was virtually Georgia’s only playmaker during the early part of the 2009 season. But when putting his entire season into context, Bobo thinks there are still a few chinks in the armor that Green could improve upon during the offseason.

“He’s got to stay healthy for a full season,” Bobo said. “He’s got to get bigger and stronger. He’s got to be able to run routes with a little more consistency. There’s no denying his playmaking ability of catching the ball in the air and doing things when he has the ball in his hands. But it’s being more consistent and being able to finish the season and a good offseason in the weight room will help that.”

Green finished his freshman campaign by nearly eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark, but a nagging groin injury hampered him throughout the year.

As a sophomore, Green finished with 53 catches and 808 yards receiving, but he missed three of Georgia’s final five games and reached the end zone just once after Oct. 3.

“He’s a tough kid and a physical kid,” Bobo said. “I think he wants to stay healthy for the entire season so he can do what he does for 12 games, and there’s no telling how good he can be or how many plays he can make for a full season.”

SURGERY-FREE SPRING

A year ago, January was filled with doctor’s visits and trips to the hospital for many of Georgia’s players. This year, Richt said the Bulldogs are hopeful that they’ll avoid the operating table altogether before spring practice begins in March.

“I don’t think there’s any,” Richt said. “The surgeries that have already happened are the only ones we anticipate this offseason, and that would be tremendous for us.”

Right tackle Josh Davis, who underwent two offseason shoulder surgeries last year, missed Georgia’s bowl game against Texas A&M, but Richt said he should be fine to return for spring practice.

Left tackle Trinton Sturdivant, who tore his ACL for the second straight season in Georgia’s opener against Oklahoma State, isn’t likely to participate in spring drills, Richt said, but is recovering quickly.

“I am glad it’s nothing serious with Josh and that he’ll be back and won’t have to deal with any offseason surgery,” Richt said. “I don’t think we expect Trinton to participate in any live contact in the spring, although we think he’ll be far enough along to do some walkthroughs.”

ON THEIR OWN

For the past four years, Kade Weston, Jeff Owens and Geno Atkins have been virtually inseparable as Georgia’s big three defensive tackles. But now all three are preparing for the NFL draft, and Weston said he’s still getting used to the idea of life without his partners in crime.

"Right now, it’s starting to be a business," Weston said. "It can’t be, oh, we want to go here together. It’s what’s best for me from a business perspective.”

TOUGH LOVE

In the wake of scandals at Texas Tech and Kansas, coaches are getting a more critical look at how they motivate and push their players, but Richt said that won’t make much difference in Georgia’s preparations.

“It won’t change one thing in regard to what we’re trying to get accomplished on the field,” Richt said. “I want our coaches to push the young men to do their very best. Not many young men can be at their best unless someone pushes them beyond their comfort zone. But there’s a way to do that that’s well within what every parent would want to be done.”

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Zander is not a tailback nor a potential tailback.
He might play FB or LB.

Anonymous said...

I think it is a mistake to ask AJ to bulk up. May hurt his speed and flexibility.

Anonymous said...

If he does not bulk up he will never last in the NFL. He is always hurt in college.

TDawg said...

A.J. can get stronger and still maintain his flexibility. He's will have to at the next level if he wants to be the impact player that he can be.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to post off topic, but am I the only Georgia fan who is a little (sadistically) glad that Miami is having record cold this week for the Orange Bowl and the Tech fans?

FreshmanDawg said...

Don't forget to congratulate Jeff Owens on being named to the Allstate Good Works Team. It's great to see a Georgia kid get recognition for their work off the field.

Greg said...

David-

I'm curious what you think is the reasoning a player comes up with, such as Richard, as to why he would WANT to stay as a RB.

I have a feeling it is either 1) He believes in himself so much that he thinks he will get it together and become a stud RB and re-climb the depth chart or 2) the opposite, which is that he's happy to have a scholly and be on the team, but he'd rather not deal with change- he can live with status quo for the rest of his college years, or 3) He thinks he's good enough but not getting a fair shake- hard to argue for him here.

It seems like if you're a guy with an NFL-type gift from a physical standpoint (he certainly has that), you were touted as a NASTY linebacker in HS, you're buried on the chart at your current position, there isn't a stalwart in place at the position you would move to (assuming MLB- and no big recruit coming there either), you still have 2 yrs plus a RS year of eligibility, AND you still have NFL aspirations (this would seem to be the big carrot) that you would be the first in line for Coach's office to ask about moving.

Or do you think some of this is going on behind the scenes- otherwise something just doesnt add up to me.

David Hale said...

I think it's option 1, Greg. And that's the kind of confidence you want your players to have. I have no doubt Richt hopes every player on the team thinks he should be starting/can be starting at his position. It's up to the coaches to make the actual decisions on that, but confidence is important -- especially for a kid like Richard who really does have a ton of physical tools.

Of course, the other possibility is that Richard is simply giving a stock quote to avoid rocking the boat until Richt is ready to announce something.

Anonymous said...

redshirt samuel this year and move him to LB

Anonymous said...

"If he does not bulk up he will never last in the NFL. He is always hurt in college."

The NFL calls late hits. Unlike the SEC when Georgia is involved. (See: The hit that knocked AJ out in the Auburn game.)

The Watch Dawg said...

Richt needs to make the decision for Samuel and move him to LB. He will be much better off for it, both in his college career and his potential at the next level. Plus with Rennie likely leaving... WE NEED HIM AT LB.