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Post TrippSam?

Thursday July 14, 2011

When I talked about the depth at running back last week, I was pretty dismissive about the idea of Richard Samuel being part of the solution. Never say never, I guess. We have to remind ourselves that this is all conjecture for now, and Samuel’s cryptic Tweets could as well be about choosing which model of scooter to buy.

Bernie has some thoughts about what this means, and they all make sense. We can analyze the heck out of this idea not only for what it means for the tailback situation but also for what it has to say about the linebackers.

I think this has a lot less to do with Crowell than with what’s after Crowell. We’re about as tense over Crowell’s adjustment to the college game as we would be driving in Bolivia. If he doesn’t come out of the gate averaging 150 yards per game, cardiac units across the state will be busy. Take it for what it’s worth, but Crowell’s talent has apparently shown up in Athens along with whatever adjustment issues might go along with them. We’ll at least have to wait a few games before knowing whether it’s time to pass the torch to the next high school tailback prospect.

Assuming for now that Crowell will actually step in to and keep the starting role, there has to be a plan for those 10 or 15 carries that come when Crowell is out of the game. Most of us would be nervously OK seeing what Thomas and Malcome can do. The tailback is also usually in on passing plays too, and a bulked-up Samuel could be a very valuable piece of the protection puzzle rather than an undersized Thomas or the freshman Malcome who is still learning the ropes. I think we’ve seen Samuel’s limit at tailback. And to be honest, it wasn’t bad. By that I mean I’d be as comfortable with him getting some of those carries as Thomas or Malcome until Ken shows what he can do. That’s not saying a lot, I know.

There’s necessarily a question of opportunity cost. If Samuel moves back to offense, he’s not a linebacker. Is that a big deal? The consensus when he moved in the first place was that he was better suited as a linebacker and had showed a lot of promise at the position in high school. But after a redshirt year during which he was able to dedicate himself to working as a linebacker, the coaches still saw fit to moved a newly-converted safety (a position with plenty of its own depth issues) ahead of Samuel on the depth chart. That’s not to say that Samuel hasn’t cut it at linebacker – he hasn’t played a live down yet. But you don’t consider a move like this for someone you see as more essential to one position than another.

What if Crowell isn’t the answer, you ask. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that Samuel or any other tailback on the roster would be a solution. Georgia would be in a tough spot. Teams weak in the backfield might be able to compensate with a spread passing game, but the second and third-best receivers on this team might be a pair of tight ends. The 2003 blueprint is fine, but it required an exceptional defense.

There are other answers: Branden Smith’s role is always good for discussion, and he’s surely good for more than jet sweeps. And if Nick Marshall is that serious of a threat in a “wild dawg” formation, he could do something with the ball in his hands. But those are short-term solutions in limited roles. With questions at receiver and a defense that’s still on the rebound, Georgia could really use that standout tailback. Right now, even with Samuel’s position up in the air, it looks as if there’s still only one candidate for that role.

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