Georgia's tailbacks gear up for 2005

Thomas Brown

ATHENS -- The last time Kregg Lumpkin seriously set foot on the Georgia practice field, the view was a lot different.

Dawgs open fall camp By Josh Kendall Telegraph Staff Writer ATHENS -- The last time Kregg Lumpkin seriously set foot on the Georgia practice field, the view was a lot different.

On that day, the first day of practice last year, there was no one in front of him. One year and one torn ACL later, he showed up for the first day of the Bulldogs' 2005 camp and the landscape has changed completely.

Most of his life he's heard the old cliche, "You can't lose your job due to injury."

"Yeah, it can happen," Lumpkin said. Georgia started practice Friday with sophomore Thomas Brown as the No1 tailback, and, until the season opener on Sept. 3 against Boise State,Brown's defense of that spot will be the most-watched position battle onthe team.

"They're not starters until they start in a game, right?" Coach Mark Richt said.

All three of the Bulldogs' top runners -- Brown, Lumpkin and Danny Ware -- have started at least one game as the featured back. The pedigree of his backups "motivates me every day," Brown said.

"I can't let up at all," he said. "If I do, I'll lose my job. It's going to be a battle every day."

Brown earned the starting spot for now by combining the power of Ware and with at least the athleticism of Lumpkin. At just 5-foot-8, 183pounds, he's the strongest player on the team pound-for-pound. In theteam's recently completed summer conditioning program, he became the first player in Richt's tenure to post a power index of higher than 7.0(7.1).

He achieved that measure of total strength by bench-pressing 425 pounds, squatting 550 and power cleaning 321, but it will take more than amazing acts of strength to put significant distance between himself and Ware and Lumpkin. "If they all play as well as they have in the past, I don't think there's a lot of difference in them," offensive coordinator Neil Callaway said. "We'll just have to rotate them and keep them fresh."

Their career average in yards per carry illustrates the closeness of the competition. Brown's is 5.1 to Ware's 5.0 and Lumpkin's 4.7.

"Danny Ware can run around you or just run over you," defensive tackle Kedric Golston said. "Kregg can do the same thing and so can Thomas. If there had to be a difference, Thomas can probably outrun a couple more people."

Richt has been asked for months now if the Bulldogs have used Auburn's two tailback system of Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams as a template for their plan this year. In fact, he said, Georgia had already begun developing its two-back system before Lumpkin was hurt last year.

The Bulldogs' system will require Ware and Lumpkin to play some fullback.

"Now don't go crazy, they are not going to be the traditional I-formation fullback that takes on a middle linebacker down after down after down," Richt said.

However, no matter the name of the position or the formation, there's one basic truth, Richt said.

"You can put three tailbacks in the backfield, but only one guy gets to touch it," he said. "The key for us regardless of how we line them up is who gets the ball."

Ware said he hoped each tailback would get "at least" 10 carries a game, but Callaway said there's no way to plan that kind of thing.

"We'll have a plan for it, but we may get into a game and one of them is hot as a firecracker or one of them can't hold onto the ball," he said.

Georgia's coaches have used the Auburn situation as motivation as much as anything, highlighting the fact that both Brown and Williams were taken in the first five picks of last year's NFL Draft.

"Coach (Mike) Bobo brought that up to me the other day," said Ware, who is up to 223 pounds after playing at 216 last year. "He said, ‘Ronnie Brown didn't start, and he went No. 2 .' That stuck in my head."

Whoever ends up starting the game, all the backs have to resign themselves to the fact that, "you're not going to rush for 1,500-2,000 yards," Brown said.

"All of us want to be the man, but we're not Oklahoma where Adrian Peterson gets 30-35 carries a game," Ware said. "You can definitely get frustrated at times, but it's all right."

No. 20 Thomas Brown

True sophomore

5-foot-8, 185 pounds

Career statistics: Three games started, 875 yards and eight touchdowns on 172 carries, 150 yards on 16 receptions

No. 6 Kregg Lumpkin

Redshirt sophomore

6-foot-1, 220 pounds

Career statistics: One game started, 523 yards and six touchdowns on 112 carries, 93 yards on 14 receptions

No. 28 Danny Ware

Redshirt sophomore

6-foot-1, 223 pounds

Career statistics: Eight games started, 724 yards and four touchdowns on 138 carries, 55 yards on seven receptions

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