"I'd say Richard is a solid No. 1," Richt said. "He's playing with a lot of energy. Some of these practices, by the end of practice he's still blazing a trail pretty good. When the other guys fatigue, he looks even faster."
Samuel figured to have a more competitive battle with fellow sophomore Caleb King for the starting job, but King went down with a hamstring injury last week and has been unable to practice.
Richt was quick to note, however, that King's injury hasn't made Samuel the default choice as the starter.
"We would have rated Richard No. 1 after the scrimmage regardless of the injury," Richt said, "but we're anxious to get Caleb back healthy, I can promise you that."
Both Samuel and King struggled in reserve duty at times a year ago, but Samuel has been able to take a huge leap forward during the offseason.
In two scrimmages, Samuel has tallied 233 yards on 19 touches with four going for touchdowns.
"That one year makes a huge difference," linebacker Rennie Curran said. "You can tell he knows his plays, knows the right fits, he knows where to be. It shows on the field. He's running that ball hard. He's definitely that type of running back we need in the SEC to play that hard-nosed football."
While Samuel's upright running style has drawn some criticism of scouts and fans, Curran said a tailback who enjoys contact as much as Samuel can be difficult for defenses to stop.
"I remember tackling him one time and I got a headache," Curran said. "He's the type of back that can beat a defense down over time. If you throw a speed tailback in there to mix it up with him, that can really wear a defense out with a guy who runs straight ahead and hits the hole as hard as he does."
Richt said redshirt freshman Carlton Thomas remains in the tailback competition after posting two strong scrimmage performances as well, but the bottom line is that Samuel has been the most impressive and has earned the trust of his coaches.
"He's shown some flashes where he runs hard, plays hard and has a much more comfortable air about him, his body language," Richt said of Samuel. "He's in control of what to do, and he's giving people confidence right now."