As has been the case in many summers past, there‚Äôs been a good bit of cross-training taking place as No. 6 Georgia prepared for the 2011 season.
Perhaps this year‚Äôs most notable instance on the list of multi-positioned Bulldogs is sophomore Malcolm Mitchell.
Last fall, Mitchell was the team‚Äôs second leading receiver (45 catches, 665 yards, four touchdowns), but he‚Äôll be starting at cornerback when Georgia opens the season today against Buffalo.
Branden Smith has seen action on both sides of the ball.
And there are several offensive linemen ‚Äî Chris Burnette and Dallas Lee among them ‚Äî who can expect to jump in at more than one position.
And then there‚Äôs senior Richard Samuel.
The 6-foot-2, 243-pound Cartersville native has been a tailback for most of his career, rushing 196 times for 768 yards and four touchdowns and sharing snaps through the years with the likes of Knowshon Moreno, Caleb King, Washaun Ealey, Carlton Thomas and Isaiah Crowell, none of whom played a full four seasons for the Bulldogs.
After two years at tailback, Samuel moved to linebacker in 2010, which turned out to be his redshirt year. He then returned to tailback as a junior, when he distinguished himself with a key performance against Florida, scoring the winning touchdown and suffering what amounted to a season-ending ankle injury in the process.
In his final college football go-round, Samuel is supplementing his time at tailback by also working at fullback. He‚Äôs listed fourth on the depth chart at tailback (behind Ken Malcome and freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall) and second at fullback (behind redshirt freshman Merritt Hall).
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs good for Richard and it‚Äôs good for Georgia,‚Äù said Bulldogs coach Mark Richt, who pointed out in the recent past, both Verron Haynes (2000-01) and Fred Munzenmaier (2008-10) contributed at both positions.
Richt added that though it is a bit unusual to have someone playing tailback and fullback, the assignment is not as onerous as the one Mitchell will face if offensive coordinator Mike Bobo gets his wish to use him on offense.
‚ÄúThe thing that makes it easier than maybe a Malcolm Mitchell trying to play receiver and defensive back is everything (Samuel) needs to learn is being done in the same meeting room, whether it‚Äôs fullback or tailback,‚Äù said Richt. ‚ÄúCoach (Bryan) McClendon is talking to tailbacks and fullbacks and that helps (Samuel) really know what to do in both areas. Right now with Malcolm, we‚Äôre scooping a little bit of offense back to him but it‚Äôs not like he can be in Coach (Tony) Ball‚Äôs meeting room at the same time as Coach (Scott) Lakatos‚Äô meeting room.‚Äù
Samuel, who said that his lack of chances at tailback and Bruce Figgins‚Äô departure convinced him to investigate rolling over to fullback, has found filling the requirements for both jobs is exhausting.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a little difficult because you get tired at times doing reps at one position and then doing reps at another position,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúAnd you have to be able to differentiate in your mind what you‚Äôve got to do and what your job responsibilities are so you don‚Äôt get them confused.‚Äù
Another component to Samuel‚Äôs assignment this fall is to serve as the leader of a group of running backs that includes a host of first-year players.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm expecting a lot from Richard ‚Äî both his play on the field and his ability to mentor the younger guys,‚Äù quarterback Aaron Murray said. ‚ÄúThe biggest thing he‚Äôs contributed this summer is his knowledge ‚Äî his knowledge of the playbook, his knowledge of what it takes to compete in the SEC and in college football. He‚Äôs done a great job of mentoring those guys.‚Äù
Samuel, who has already graduated (with a degree in sport management) and is now in an internship program at nearby Clarke Central High School, said he knows he‚Äôll have a hand in developing Georgia‚Äôs running backs of the near future.
‚ÄúI have to set an example, to show them how to practice and to show them how to prepare,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúEven if you‚Äôre not in there and on the bench, you have to show them how to get mental reps and learn from every mistake and everything that‚Äôs happening on the field.
‚ÄúIt makes me feel good, it makes me feel like I‚Äôm helping out somehow to get the young guys ready because they‚Äôre going to be the ones that will rotate in the game with me. By helping out the best I can, it makes me know they‚Äôre ready when it‚Äôs their time to play and I feel comfortable with them being in there.‚Äù
Samuel has a true believer in redshirt freshman Hall, who is expected to start in his first college game today.
‚ÄúThat‚Äôs one thing I‚Äôve been thankful for, just to have a guy like Richard, who has a lot of experience being part of this program,‚Äù Hall said. ‚ÄúHe knows the offense and the defense because he‚Äôs played both. Anytime I have a question, I know I can go and ask him and he‚Äôll help me out with whatever I need help on. He‚Äôs a great leader and a great person to follow on this football team.‚Äù