August 27, 2010

New opportunities in Bulldog backfield

Although it may not be the way Carlton Thomas wanted to get additional playing time, the redshirt sophomore said Friday he plans on taking advantage of whatever opportunities he receives in Georgia's upcoming opener against Louisiana-Lafayette.

With Washaun Ealey suspended for at least one game following his arrest early Friday morning, Thomas moves to No. 2 on the depth chart behind starter Caleb King, with head coach Mark Richt adding that Fred Munzenmaier can also expect some carries.

"It's not how I wanted to get them but like I've been saying all along, if I get a chance I'm going to do what I can to try and fill in," Thomas said. "I'll fill in any way I can to help the team."

Last year, Thomas appeared in seven games for the Bulldogs carrying 22 times for 95 yards, but put the football on the ground too much for Richt's taste and struggled at times with pass protection.

Munzenmaier, meanwhile, has 12 career carries for 43 yards but has scored four touchdowns as a fullback.

King, obviously, will get the bulk of the carries.

Last year the Norcross native established career highs in carries (18) and yards (166) in Georgia's 30-24 win at Georgia Tech. He finished the year with 114 carries for 594 yards and seven scores.

King was not available for comment after Friday's practice, although Richt said he believes the junior along with the rest of the team will step up to whatever challenge they face without Ealey in the lineup.

"This team is very resilient and very tough mentally and I guarantee you the guys that are out there will play their tails off," Richt said. "There's a whole bunch of them who have been doing everything right and been preparing themselves for a tremendous season. But what it's also going to do is provide an opportunity for guys like Carlton and Fred to show that they need more playing time."

Whether or not Thomas and Muzenmaier garner more attempts depends on Ealey himself.

Richt made it quite clear that it will be up to Ealey and how well he accepts his punishment and moves forward before deciding if the one-game suspension will be lifted in time for the SEC opener in two weeks at South Carolina.

Thomas believes the team will move forward regardless.

"We've just got to go out and win games," Thomas said. "Everything will be water under the bridge if we just win games.

Richt hopes Ealey will learn his lesson.

The Bulldogs will need the sophomore who led the team in rushing last year with 717 yards and three touchdowns as they delve into the conference portion of their 2010 slate.

"I think they (players) are sometimes like a lot of people in that they don't think something could happen to them," Richt said. "I'm sure he thought that short little trip was not a big deal but it turned out to be a big deal. He couldn't get in the car. It's like if you have a drink, you don't get in the car. If your license is suspended, you can't get behind the wheel. You can't roll the dice because you're going to lose sooner or later."

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