July 8, 2010

Bulldogs' backfield in good hands

During an earlier interview with UGASports, Georgia running backs coach Bryan McClendon was asked at what point Washaun Ealey and Caleb King finally realized what it was going to take in order to push their games to the next level.

His answer made a lot of sense.

"The biggest thing that helped them turn the page was that no matter how they felt, when (they) came out there, no matter how they looked at every game, whatever chance they had to step on that field they knew they had to get better," McClendon said recently. "They sort of took that upon each other. They both feed off each other, which is a great thing to see. But I think they're working hard, I don't want anybody to start crowning those guys the next so-and-so, but they are some talented guys. They're still young, there's still a whole lot of football for those two to play so we're going to see how that goes."

Last fall, it went pretty well.

Ealey arrived in Athens after a record-setting career at ECI, where he set the state of Georgia single-season touchdown mark of 58, wrapping up his career with a state record 133 career scores.

However, Ealey soon learned that life as a collegian was going to be significantly tougher.

"At the beginning, I wouldn't say he was running scared, but he was stiff, but I just told him to relax and open up," King said in April. "I just told him to settle down and run hard."

That's just what Ealey did.

After slowly establishing himself as the Bulldogs' go-to back, Ealey exploded in the season-finale against Georgia Tech, exploding for 183 yards, with King chipping in with a career-high 166 and two touchdowns in the Bulldogs' 30-24 win.

"That was a lot of fun, just going out there and show the world the Georgia way - to just go out there and pound the ball," Ealey said. "That's what football is all about. It's fun to go out there and beat up on people."

Ealey finished the year with 125 carries for 717 yards and three touchdowns with King chipping in with 114 carries for 595 yards and seven scores.

Thoughts of Ealey and King continuing their success this fall certainly beats the uncertainty that faced the Bulldogs this time a season ago.

When Georgia kicked off the 2009 campaign at Oklahoma State, Richard Samuel had established himself as the Bulldogs' top option, following a solid preseason which enabled him to earn the starting role.

So much for first impressions:

Although Samuel showed signs of living up to early expectations when he rushed for 104 yards against Arkansas, including an 80-yard touchdown run, it quickly became apparent that changes would have to be made. Today, Samuel is an inside linebacker.

\Fortunately for Georgia, King and Ealey were able to step up their game after overcoming some minor injuries. That is one reason there is guarded optimism regarding the Bulldogs' 2010 offense despite the fact that offensive coordinator Mike Bobo will be breaking in a new starting quarterback.

So who will start the season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette? How much will each play?

King was injured most of the spring, leaving Ealey atop the depth chart. But when preseason practice begins July 31, both players figure to be back even, although you can bet both will ultimately see equal time.

McClendon said there's no reason to think they won't make the on-field relationship work yet again.

"I Again, it's that special relationship that they have with each other," McClendon said. "They feed off each other, they ask each other questions. One can tell the other what they see out on the field and vice-versa. I think it's a special relationship, not just with those guys but all those running backs do that pretty well."

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