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February 25, 2008
Spring Preview: Tailbacks
Georgia's history for producing top-flight halfbacks is as rich as any school in the SEC.
Long before Herschel Walker graced the turf at Sanford Stadium, players like Willie McClendon, Kevin McLee, Jimmy Poulos and a host of others were etching their names in the minds of the Bulldog Nation.
Now, as the Bulldogs prepare to kick off spring practice on March 3, Knowshon Moreno stands ready to make an even deeper impact on a position that's expected to receive an additional jolt from Caleb King.
What a debut it was.
Moreno rushed 248 times for 1,334 yards and 14 touchdowns, becoming the first Georgia freshman since Walker to rush for more than 1,000 yards.
"Every once in a while, you can see a guy on tape who just flat out loves it," Georgia coach Mark Richt said earlier this year. "Knowshon is one of those guys. It's contagious. A lot of guys love the game. A lot of guys play hard. But every once in a while, it's just so visible that this guy is jacked up, ready to go and wants some more."
No doubt Bulldog fans can't wait to see more of Moreno, too. King's addition could really make Georgia's ground game impossible to control.
After practicing at 215 pounds last fall, King has gotten his weight down to 203 pounds, about what he played at in high school at Parkview and Greater Atlanta Christian when he was tabbed as one of the country's top prep running backs in 2006.
"I feel better than ever," King said. "I've worked hard to get to get where I am. I can't wait for spring to get here."
Richt certainly knows the impact King can make with the team.
In the summer of 2005, both King and Moreno attended summer camp at Georgia and made an immediate impression on those watching them perform.
Richt remembers it well.
"We wore him and Caleb out," Richt said. "I was thinking, 'You know what? These guys aren't coming to Georgia. We are killing them.' … It was a smoking hot day and we were grinding them all. Caleb and Knowshon were the two guys that were just competing harder and lasting longer than most of them. They both got after it and it was like, 'Wow, these guys are special.'"
Who will follow behind Moreno and King remains to be seen.
Jackson, who only played the first half of his first game last season before breaking a bone in his wrist, says he's ready to make his presence felt.
"It's (the wrist) feeling better every day," said Jackson. "I still don't have my full range of motion, but in time it will be OK."
Jackson said he fully anticipates being ready for spring drills. Richt certainly hopes so.
"We feel like we're in a very good position now with our running backs," Richt said. "We know have three scholarship tailbacks (King, Jackson and Samuel) behind Knowshon who will be competing."
Before his injury, Jackson was arguably the state's most dynamic high school running back coming into the 2007 season.
As a junior Jackson rushed 247 times for 2,462 yards, an average of 10 yards per carry, and 29 touchdowns. Included, was a 42-carry, 405-yard performance against Lamar County in the season finale.
Samuel, meanwhile, has only played the position for two years, but has the size, speed and skill to become a force.
"Dontavius is a lot like Knowshon and Caleb," running back coach Tony Ball said. "I'm not saying that from a talent standpoint he's that dynamic but he has that potential to be that type of back.
"Richard is just two years into the position. He's more of a downhill type runner, a big back. I really like his size; I love his speed and the fact that he hasn't played the position for very long. He's young, and he's eager to learn. He's got a lot of upside."
Despite not playing running back until his junior year, Samuel put up some gaudy numbers during his career at Cass High. Samuel carried the football 164 times for 1,342 yards and 19 touchdowns as a junior, followed by a senior campaign which saw him run for 1,429 yards and 24 touchdowns in just nine games.
Sophomore walk-on Kalvin Daniels is the only other running back with actually game experience after picking up 44 yards on eight carries in mop-up duty last fall.