March 23, 2010

McClendon wants Ealey, King grounded

Recently, both Caleb King and Washaun Ealey half-jokingly suggested how cool it would be if they both would be able to rush for 1,000 yards next fall.

While that's obviously an admirable goal, running backs coach Bryan McClendon wasn't too keen on such projections when talking about the position which, which at least on paper, has the potential to be one of the better units in the SEC.

But as McClendon will quickly point out, potential doesn't mean much unless long hours of hard work aren't put in.

"I think they need to make sure they're taking care of what they need to do in practice and not worry what they're going to do next year," McClendon said. "They know they've got a bunch of improving to do, so I'm not going to go around crowing anyone as a 1,000-yard rusher, much less two because they still have a long way to go."

Don't get McClendon wrong.

He's actually very pleased with the way that Ealey (125 carries, 717 yards) and King (114 carries, 594 yards have approached spring drills.

According to McClendon, neither back has rested on their respective laurels from last season and seem to understand what it takes to ultimately be a true success in the SEC.

"They know what it takes physically in order to do well in this league. They know it takes them developing their bodies a little bit more and I think they've made great strides in that this offseason," McClendon said. "They have both been through the low ends and the high ends of last season. They understand what it needs to well and I think that's going to make all the difference."

Competition is fierce.

Both players want to start this year's season-opener against Louisiana-Lafayette, and it's that type of competitive nature that King says continues to drive the two on a daily basis.

"Of course we both want to start, that's why we come out here every day to do what we can to get better," King said. "We're just very competitive. We're good friend and all that, but we also want to be on the field as much as we can."

Carlton Thomas and Dontavius Jackson would like to be on the field as much as possible.

But will they?

Barring injuries, Ealey and King certainly figure to get most of the snaps, leaving Thomas, Jackson and incoming freshman Ken Malcome to battle it out for whatever playing time remains.

Jackson, whose career thus far has been beset with injuries, knows he probably has the biggest hurdle to climb. But he's not giving up.

"I'm still working, trying to get better every day," said Jackson, who denied that coaches have approached him about a possible change of position. "I'm not getting down on myself or anything. I'm staying positive and moving forward."

Thomas is doing the same.

The way he sees it, the Bulldogs will need a third back some point next year, and said recently that he would not be opposed to trying new positions if offensive coordinator Mike Bobo sees fit.

"Oh yeah, any opportunity is a chance for me to show what I can do on the field," Thomas said. "I just want them to take a chance with me. I feel I can do whatever; it just depends on what the coaches want."

Thomas is certainly not lacking for confidence.

"I feel I can make any play they (coaches) ask me to do," he said. "I'm sure they (Ealey and King) feel the same way, but that's the mindset you have to have. You can't sit around thinking 'this guy is better than me.' You have to think you're just as good, if not better. It's that way in life, not just football."

McClendon loves Thomas' attitude and said his opportunities will come.

"That's the beauty about Carlton. He's not a guy who questions too much about what the coaches are doing; he trusts the staff and he knows that we're going to be fair," McClendon said. "He also knows that we don't want to put him in a position where we want him to be one-dimensional. But he also knows he has to do some things on his end to be able to hold in every aspect of what we're doing with this offense. I think we're doing that."

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