Caleb King had a rough offseason.
He missed most of bowl workouts because of an academic suspension. Then in February, Georgia signed a much-hyped running back prospect who could take some of his carries.
So King’s return to practice on Thursday came as a relief for the only scholarship senior among the running backs.
"For me, especially, it had been a while since I’d practiced, too long," King said. "It felt good to go out there and be with the team again and sweat and run some plays and work hard."
King did not provide any details about what led to his academic suspension, but he was ready to make amends this spring and carry into next season.
"I really don’t think I can speak upon that (suspension)," King said. "It was a mistake and it won’t happen again."
King ran for 430 yards and two touchdowns in eight games last season, but missed most of practice leading into the Liberty Bowl as well as the game. King’s backfield mate Washaun Ealey ran for 811 yards and 11 touchdowns. Both have served suspensions in the last year.
In February, Georgia signed five-star running back prospect Isaiah Crowell, who is expected to push King and Ealey, along with Carlton Thomas, for playing time. Crowell won’t officially join the team until preseason workouts in August.
"Isaiah is a very talented guy, and we’re going to put him in position to see what he can do," Richt said. "But the tailback position is a position where there is a learning curve in pass protection. We know that. There’s a learning curve in route running. Most great backs, if you hand them the ball, they’re the kind of back that can help you win.
"So Isaiah, we think, has those skill sets and he’s going to get a chance to show what he can do, and these other guys need to solidify as much playing time as they can before he shows up."
King, who was also a five-star recruit coming out of high school, did his part to welcome Crowell to the team when he signed.
"I remember back in ’07, I went through a similar experience," King said. "I understand what he’s going through. I’m not going to say they’re going to boost him up because he’s probably going to come in here and be a great player. I think it’s more for the fans, so they’ll be excited for next season.
"But he’s still going to have to come in here and work hard because we’re all working hard. Once he comes in, I’m sure he’s going to start busting his tail, so I’m going to kind of get him under my wings and go from there."
Ealey impresses Richt
Ealey was suspended from team activities during part of the offseason, but has returned in time for spring practice. Richt had a wary eye on Ealey during the first day of workouts and liked what he saw.
"He looked very good," Richt said. "He busted his tail. He gave great effort today. I kind of expected it, but he really gave great effort and gave as good of effort as anybody today."
Murray goes full speed
Quarterback Aaron Murray did not miss a drill on Thursday, only about three weeks removed from spraining his ankle playing soccer.
"I worked everything and really didn’t feel any pain at all," Murray said. "Cutting, moving around the pocket felt fluid with no pain at all. It was a good day when it comes to my missing leg. Some people were giving me a hard time about being (soccer superstar) Cristiano Ronaldo. But it’s in the past. It’s healed. It’s fine. It’s feeling good and I think everybody is happy I’m going to be able to participate in practice and know that I’m doing well."
Murray’s ankle might have healed enough to practice, but he decided to bag a planned spring break cruise with teammates Christian Robinson and Ty Frix.
"I’m going to go home and rest and make sure this is 100 percent before I come back for practice," Murray said.
This and that
Georgia had one practice this week before taking 12 days off for spring break and returning on March 22. … Dexter Morant began spring workouts in a non-contact green jersey on Thursday. … Place-kicker Blair Walsh said he hit a 68-yard practice field goal with the 20-mph wind behind him.