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July 2, 2009Will one running back step out of the pack to claim the starting job for Georgia this fall?
Perhaps: But the way redshirt Carlton Thomas sees it, there's going to be ample opportunities for all.
"Right now it looks like it's going to be by committee, at least that how the (running backs) unit is looking at it," Thomas said. "Maybe if one guy shows out, is just that much above everybody else, it might be a one back thing. But we're looking at it that we've all got to be ready. We're looking at this as a team thing. Whoever helps the team is the person that will be in there playing."
Head coach Mark Richt is certainly not afraid to use more than back at a time, having used the trio of Thomas Brown, Kregg Lumpkin and Danny Ware in 2006 before Knowshon Moreno burst on the scene in 2007.
The battle begins when Georgia kicks off preseason drills in August.
Caleb King finished as the team's second-leading rusher in 2008, gaining 247 yards on 61carries with one touchdown, while Thomas followed up a strong bowl practice with an equally impressive spring to put his name squarely in the mix.
Dontavius Jackson and Richard Samuel are both coming off injuries but will be ready come August, while true freshman Washaun Ealey according to Sports Information Director Claude Felton will arrive on campus next week and get his shot as well.
Although Thomas admits sharing time in the manner they're expecting is something each will need to get used to, the Florida native said he and the rest won't complain.
"Every one of us is used to being that main guy in high school where we'd get to carry the ball maybe six straight times to get into a rhythm," Thomas said. "We've just got to learn to be ready at a moment's notice. When you get the ball in your hands you have to be ready to get in that rhythm."
Thomas, who has worked his way up to a solid 182 pounds, is ready to make his impact.
"I think I've put myself in a very good spot," he said. "I think I opened some eyes and I've let the coaches know that I can do something once I get the ball in my hands. I think I'm in a good spot."
He's not just satisfied with getting work in the Bulldog backfield.
Thomas said he also hopes to win the job returning both kickoffs and punts, something he excelled at during his days at Frostproof High.
"I want to touch the ball just as many times as I can," he said.
Obviously, that includes any potential carries he can wrangle as well.
"Coach (running backs coach Bryan) McClendon has told us we're all going in with a clean slate and whoever comes out and performs are going to be the ones that are going to play," he said. "He's been very straight with all of us about that."
Summer workouts have been intense.
According to Thomas, the group routinely puts extra work in and hasn't settled for the status quo.
"We're putting in all kind of extra work. A lot of times, we'll get done but come back and do some more," he said. "Depending on how everyone feels, we may come out and do even more after that. Everybody's holding everybody accountable. We're doing whatever we can to make the unit better."