Athens – Richard Samuel has a reputation for being the ultimate team player for Georgia, and deservedly so. Since arriving in Athens as a 17-year-old in 2008, he has been asked to change positions — and accepted those requests — three times due to depth issues on one side of the ball or the other.
As the page turns to 2012, Samuel is coming to the rescue again. With the recent dismissal of tailback Isaiah Crowell, Samuel is going to be asked to pick up the slack at that position this fall. Samuel had his mind set on playing fullback this fall, but now he will work “primarily” at tailback, according to offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, especially in the early going.
“I don’t think too much about it,” said Samuel as he signed autographs during Countdown to Kickoff at UGA this past Saturday. “Back in the spring I was preparing for both, tailback and fullback. So now it looks like I’ll be leaning more to tailback, which is fine. But I hope I get some time at fullback. I don’t want it to be like linebacker where I prepared for linebacker but never got to rep at it. So I’m just hoping I get a little mix of fullback in there.”
When Samuel (6-foot-2, 243 pounds) signed with the Bulldogs out of Bartow County’s Cass High in 2008, he came in as a 5-star prospect who could play either running back or linebacker. What position he should play in college was a hotly-debated topic. In order to win his recruiting battle, the Bulldogs said they’d leave it up to him and, as these things tend to turn out, Samuel chose to run the football.
It wasn’t necessarily a bad decision. Samuel played in 11 games as a true freshman backup to All-SEC tailback Knowshon Moreno. He finished with 133 yards on 26 carries (5.1 ypc average) and had 401 yards on kickoff returns.
Samuel took over as the starter in 2009 after Moreno left for the NFL and was impressive early on. He had an 80-yard TD run and finished with 104 yards at Arkansas in Game 3. But he fell behind Caleb King and Washaun Ealey and lost the No. 1 spot by midseason.
The decision was made the next year to switch Samuel to defense and he was redshirted in order to acclimate to the new position. Samuel was sharing reps with Alec Ogletree at “Mo” inside linebacker through spring practice and was looking forward to playing defense in 2011. But before the Bulldogs could get to preseason camp, Ealey was pointed toward the door, King flunked out and Carlton Thomas was suspended for the opening game.
So the coaches turned to Samuel and asked him if he’d be willing to come back to offense to help out. As has been his inclination, Samuel answered the call. He started three games at tailback, played in eight and, for all practical purposes, won the Florida game for the Bulldogs when he rushed for 58 yards and scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the 24-20 victory. Unfortunately for Georgia, Samuel injured an ankle on the last play of the Florida game. He had ankle surgery the next week and missed the next five games.
Heading into this year, Georgia seemed set at tailback with the return of Crowell, Ken Malcome and Brandon Harton and the additions of highly-rated signees Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley. The Bulldogs also lost fullback Bruce Figgins to graduation. So Samuel was pretty happy about the coaches’ decision to cross-train him at fullback with the idea of him primarily playing that position this fall.
“I like contact,” Samuel said. “Fullback is close to linebacker to me so I enjoy that as well. I enjoy the contact part of it.”
Then came the Crowell catastrophe and Samuel finds himself back at square one.
“I’ve talked to [running backs coach Bryan] McClendon about it and he says it’ll be interchangeable,” Samuel said. “He said I might be the fullback in the gun or we might have two tailbacks or whatever. It all depends on the plays that are called and the down and distance. We’ll see.”
Samuel was asked if he is ever frustrated by the continued movement.
“I understand the need,” said the fifth-year senior. “There are certain areas where we have needs and right now those are tailback and fullback. If it were a completely different position, that might be overkill. But I enjoy both positions I’ll be playing.”
Bobo, for one, is extremely thankful to have Samuel to turn to.
“Richard’s going to do what’s best for the football team,” Bobo said. “I think if he stays healthy, he can be productive for us. He’s a senior and he knows we’re counting on him.”