Georgia Football: Richard Samuel Shifts Back to Offense
As a part of the Class of 2008, Richard Samuel enrolled early at Georgia in January of that year at the young age of 16 years old. Samuel came to UGA rated as a 5-star prospect by Scout.com. Scout ranked him as the #4 RB of his class (behind such household names as Darrell Scott, Justin Johnson and Jermie Calhoun). Samuel was one of the three 4-star or above RBs that Georgia signed that year as they also signed Scout.com's #15 ranked RB, Carlton Thomas, and Scout.com's #23 ranked RB Dontavius Jackson (who transferred in 2010).
As a freshman in 2008, Samuel didn't see the field that much but did average 5.1 yards per carry on 26 carries as he was 3rd on the depth chart behind Knowshon Moreno (rushed for 1,400 yards) and Caleb King. In 2009, Samuel started out as a starter and rushed for 256 yards in the first three games while averaging 5.01 yards per carry. Despite rushing for his career high 104 yards against Arkansas he also fumbled twice in that game causing some doubt in the minds of fans and coaches. Samuel struggled in the next game against Arizona State as he gained only 25 yards on 11 carries. In the LSU game he rushed for just 11 yards on 4 carries as freshman Washaun Ealey saw his first action of the year. It was at that point that Ealey's role greatly increased and Samuel's greatly decreased. Going into 2010, Georgia had what looked like a solid starter in Washaun Ealey and a good back-up in Caleb King. Based on Georgia's depth at RB (which also included Carlton Thomas and Dontavius Jackson) the decision was made to move Samuel to LB.
Last year, Samuel ended up red-shirting because of an injury that plagued him until the Vanderbilt game. The Vandy game was the first time that Samuel suited up and had a chance to play but the coaching staff didn't want to waste his junior year by playing him in the 7th game of the season and made the decision to red-shirt him so that he had two years of eligibility left. It was this spring when Samuel's chances at LB took another hit when Sophomore Alec Ogletree (the Bulldogs number one recruit of the 2010 class) was moved from Safety to ILB, a position in which Samuel was challenging for playing time. With Ogletree firmly entrenched as a starter, Samuel at best was going to be the first ILB off the bench behind Christian Robinson and Ogletree.
Then the attrition started at the RB position. A once shining star in Washaun Ealey had faded after momentum-changing fumbles against South Carolina and Mississippi State and a game-changing missed block late in the Arkansas game. Ealey ended up leading the team in rushing after missing the first game due to a suspension but had a very rocky year. During the off-season it became more and more apparent that Ealey was not long for Georgia and he eventually agreed to a "mutual" transfer. Then it was Caleb King who was just recently declared academically ineligible in his fifth year at Georgia. The combined loss of Ealey and King left Georgia with just three scholarship TBs. All of them unproven at the collegiate level. Incoming freshman Isaiah Crowell, RS Freshman Boo Malcome and the veteran of the bunch junior Carlton Thomas (264 career yards rushing, 199 of which came in SEC games).
With a group as unproven as Georgia had at RB and with Samuel's uncertain future at LB due to the talent ahead of him, the Georgia coaching staff asked Samuel to move back to RB. When the announcement was made that Caleb King was ineligible, Samuel was one of the first people that I thought about as a potential replacement. I quickly dismissed this thought and decided to instead concentrate on the players Georgia already had at that position. But realisitically, Georgia had no proven talent at RB. There are high hopes for true freshman Isaiah Crowell but he is making a big change from his High School offense to Georgia's pro style and giving him too much of a load early in his freshman season is not likely a recipe for success. RS Freshman Boo Malcome looks like he might be able to contribute in certain positions but it's unsure if he's ready for a role as big as the Dawgs need. Carlton Thomas seems more like a fit for a third down back. Instead of risking going into the Boise State game and South Carolina game as is, the coaching staff felt more confident in having an experienced player like Richard Samuel back in the fold at RB.
This decision could not have been easy for the coaching staff or for Samuel. The coaching staff has seen first hand what moving a player between positions can do (LB/DB Nick Williams transferred to North Alabama this spring for that and a lack of playing time). In the end the coaching staff felt that Samuel was now mature enough to handle this move and still had the talent to play RB in the SEC. Everybody is saying the right thing in this situation. In Seth Emerson's blog, Richt called him a "man we can count on" and said he was "proud of him for putting the team first." Samuel added that he was "excited to play tailback" and said he was "ready to do anything to help the team win." Scout.com's Fletcher Page sited a "source" on the Twitter Machine today that Samuel was "already at tailback during player-driven drills this afternoon. He made the move and got to work". Will Samuel start off the season as the #1 guy as they ease Crowell into the fold, will he share time at the start with Isaiah Crowell, or will he be relegated to a back-up role?
It remains to be seen how Samuel will fare at RB with his increased mass that he gained in preparation to play LB. This is a risk for Georgia and for Samuel. Remember we are just seven weeks away from the first game of the season. In what looks to be the most important season in the career of Mark Richt this could be a decision that greatly affects how the season starts for Georgia. As a Georgia alum, I'm optimistic about the season but also very nervous. As an alum I would also like to add that I am proud of Richard Samuel for stepping up and putting the team first. It's players like Samuel and DJ Shockley (and many others) that make me proud to be an alum and a fan of the University of Georgia. Regardless of the results on the field, there is no doubt that Richard Samuel is a Damn Good Dawg.