Athens — There’s another reason Georgia felt the need to move Richard Samuel to tailback. Carlton Thomas is suspended for at least the first game of the season.
The rising junior from Frostproof, Fla., violated team rules back in the spring, three persons familiar with the situation confirmed to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. As per Georgia Athletic Association student-athlete policy, Thomas has to sit out 10 percent of scheduled games this season.
The Bulldogs play 12 games this season, including the season opener against Top-10-ranked Boise State in the Georgia Dome. Most recently that has resulted in one-game suspensions, though Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity declined to specify.
“If we have any announcements regarding suspensions, they’ll be made at the appropriate time,” said McGarity, declining further comment.
Had Georgia not moved Samuel from linebacker to running back, it would have had only redshirt freshman Ken Malcome and true freshman Isaiah Crowell on scholarship at tailback. Neither, of course, has played in a college game.
Washaun Ealey and Caleb King, Georgia’s top two rushers each of the last two seasons, each have left the program since the end of spring practice.
Thomas (5-foot-7, 175 pounds) has played in 17 games the last two seasons, including one start last season against Colorado. He is the Bulldogs’ leading returning rusher from last season with 272 yards and two touchdowns.
Indications are Thomas’ infraction occurred before Georgia’s announcement this summer that King would be ineligible this season. Interviewed this past Friday, Thomas talked about serving as a leader as the most experienced member of Georgia’s backfield.
“I pretty much take it as I’m the back with the most experience, the most game-time experience, the most knowledge at the position,” Thomas said. “So I take it as a challenge to lead the group. That’s what I try to do every day. I try to be positive, I try to be motivated and try to give them somebody whose going to push them as much as they push me. We’re trying to get the best out of every guy.”
Thomas’s suspension continues an alarming rate of attrition for the running backs under the watch of position coach Bryan McClendon. Ealey was indefinitely suspended and eventually granted an unconditional release due to mutual discontent and King was unable to meet the NCAA’s satisfactory progress rule for fifth-year seniors. Now Thomas has run afoul of team policy.
No specific reason was given for Thomas’ suspension. A 10 percent-competition suspension can be applied for missing excessive academic appointments, arrests or flunking a drug tests. No record of arrests could be found.
Last Thursday, Georgia moved Samuel linebacker back to tailback, where he played his first two seasons. Samuel started six games as a sophomore before falling behind Ealey and King on the depth chart. He moved to linebacker and redshirted last season after a minor knee injury.
|– Chip Towers