ATHENS, Ga.— The weight room at the Butts-Mehre building will be a busy one from now until August.
And the competition between Carlton Thomas, Caleb King, Richard Samuel and Dontavious Jackson, among others, will be a strong one.
As far as Thomas and King are concerned, the strongest tailback on the Monday that Georgia gets down to business preparing for Oklahoma State will be the starting tailback at kickoff in September.
They won’t hear anything different from running backs coach Bryan McClendon.
“You’re going to be running on every play, sprinting on every play, hitting on every play,” he said. “You’re going to be blocking defensive ends, you’re going to be blocking outside linebackers.
“In this league, you’ve got to hold up.”
King stands 5-feet-11 and 212 pounds, four inches taller and 42 pounds heavier than Thomas. Samuel is a more solid 6-2 and 222 pounds while Jackson, who saw his first scrimmage action of the spring Saturday, is 5-10 and 194.
“I feel like I need more strength,” Thomas said. “I got stronger in the spring, but I can get stronger.”
Redshirt freshman Thomas and sophomore King had a few moments in Saturday’s G-Day game at Sanford Stadium, Thomas having a few more, including a 20-yard touchdown run with 1:08 left in the game.
He finished with 59 yards on eight carries while King had 22 on seven tries.
There wasn’t much to remind anybody of players like Knowshon Moreno or Herschel Walker, but it was an abbreviated game with an abbreviated game plan. Fumbles and clearly blown assignments were minimal.
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo was happy with the young unit’s progress, especially King and Thomas.
“I thought both of them ran hard and finished runs,” Bobo said. “I was very pleased with both. They did a nice job on assignments.”
Former Bleckley County standout Kalvin Daniels had 20 yards on three carries, earning a mention from head coach Mark Richt, but he has to wade through some bodies to get into the mix.
McClendon said all of the backs have made the progress throughout the spring that he had hoped for, from improving knowledge of the game to understanding assignments to playing hard.
What Thomas wants to improve is something he thinks is the priority for the entire running backs corps.
“We let one man tackle us,” Thomas said. “Coach (McClendon) tells us all the time, ‘You’ve got to be able to get stronger, so you can break through those tackles, break loose from that one guy and make a big play.’
“We still have to get stronger as a unit. That’s gonna make this team better, that’s gonna make this offense better.”
Thomas and King will begin August in a battle, and that battle will get tougher when Samuel and Jackson are healthier and all-stater Washuan Ealey joins the Bulldogs. Saturday shed no light on who has an edge, and that won’t start to appear until the middle of preseason camp when it may become more evident who worked harder.
King knows what his social life will be like.
“Live in the weight room,” he said, “trying to get stronger, faster.”
King remembered when his transition from speedy high school star to college back in need of some bulk was started.
“Kelin Johnson my freshman year,” King said with a smile. “A 48 sweep, outside. He came up and nailed me. My helmet (was sideways), my buckle came off.
“ ‘Welcome to the SEC.’ I knew I had to get stronger.”