Monday, August 1, 2011

Running Back


After losing the top two rushers from last season, you would think that Coach Bryan McClendon would be in a panic, he’s not.


DSC_7926Richard Samuel has returned to the position he started at three years ago. This time he’s not a 17 year old freshman, he’s a 6-2, 243 pound junior that packs the punch of a Mack Truck when he seeks out a defender to punish.

Offensively he has appeared in 22 games, starting 6 of those, carried the ball 114 times for 528 yards and 3 touchdowns. He’s averaging 4.6 yards per carry and his longest run was an 80 yard touchdown against Arkansas in 2009. He also has 50 yards on 8 receptions to go along with 19 kickoff returns for 401 yards. Samuel’s running style is more upright than most backs and it will be interesting to see if he develops a little “shake and bake” this fall.

Junior Carlton Thomas is at the opposite end of the spectrum from Samuel, he’s 5-7 and weighs 163 pounds. His game is one of quickness and making the first defender miss a tackle. The speedster has appeared in 17 games making one start, he has rushed for 364 yards on 86 carries and 2 touchdowns, an average of 4.2 yards per carry. His longest run was 15 yards against Arkansas last season. Thomas has also been used to return kickoffs and punts. His biggest issue to overcome this fall is holding onto the ball.

Redshirt freshman Ken Malcome has the size at 6-0, 226 pounds to become an every down running back in the SEC, he has been hampered by injuries during his first year in Athens and has been recovering from a groin injury suffered this spring that limited his participation. If he can stay healthy this fall, he will provide some much needed depth.

Freshman Isaiah Crowell has been all but anointed with the starting job after signing as the number one running back in the nation out of Carver High School in Columbus. He has all the physical tools at 5-11, 210 pounds to go along with his speed but the determining factor will be his attitude. Crowell has worked out over the summer with upperclassmen leading the way and will need to step up his effort once the pads go on to move up the depth chart.

The biggest offensive surprise of the spring was Brandon Harton. At 5-6, 174 pounds the redshirt sophomore walk-on showed that he was plenty tough enough to take anything the defense could dish out. With an outstanding fall camp, Harton could possibly win a scholarship and earn a few carries on game day. Fellow walk-on’s Wes Van Dyke (Jr., 6-0, 203) and Alex Parsons (RSo., 5-10, 194) will handle scout team responsibilities this fall.


DSC_7962Senior Bruce Figgins at 6-4, 272 pounds may be the biggest fullback in the SEC this season. Figgins moved from a crowded tight end position to handle the blocking chores in the backfield. His ability to block and catch the football should pay huge dividends, especially in short yardage situations. Figgins played in all 13 games and only had 4 receptions last season but 2 of them were touchdowns.

Sophomore Alexander Ogletree, (5-10, 224), is the only other scholarshiped fullback on the roster. He was used primarily on special teams last season but is expected to see more offensive action this fall.

Walk-on redshirt sophomore Dustin Royston, (5-11, 242) was used as the wham back in short yardage and goal line situations last year, he is another that could possibly earn a scholarship this fall with a good camp.

Sophomore Drew Wilson, (6-2, 206) and freshman Greg Mulkey, (6-3, 230) will handle scout team duties.

The Figgins – Samuel combination will be as physical as anyone in the country, they are both strong, fast and not afraid of contact. Thomas, Harton and Ogletree are smaller and will offer a very different challenge to the defense with their quickness.

Malcome has to prove he can stay healthy while Crowell must show that he has learned the definition of TEAM, is not afraid of contact and develops the attitude of a back willing to pay the price to maximize his potential.

Coach McClendon hasn’t panicked yet but he certainly has a lot of work to do over the next 30 days.



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