By David Paschall
ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia redshirt freshman tailback Knowshon Moreno is two-faced.
He knows it. His teammates and coaches know it. And everyone approves.
When the Bulldogs are practicing or playing, Moreno is among the team's most animated players. He jumps into the arms of his offensive linemen after big runs, and he isn't shy with trash talk.
"We're going to give him a tranquilizer," sophomore quarterback Matthew Stafford said of Moreno's anticipation for Saturday night's game at Alabama. "He's going crazy."
Yet when it comes to giving interviews, the 5-foot-11, 207-pounder from Belford, N.J., could be flagged for intentional yawning. Asked this week about his productive start to the season, Moreno said, "I'm doing OK. As a team, we're working hard and we're getting better, but we've still got a lot of things we need to improve on."
So why the two sides?
"We're all a little like that," senior tailback Thomas Brown said. "There is a way you kind of act around teammates in practice, and there is a way to conduct yourself when you do interviews. You don't want to say anything that would start any controversy. He does a wonderful job in practice and in his preparation, and he has brought a lot of excitement to our team."
Said Moreno: "On the field I'm with the guys, and I'm excited and hyper to be out there. I guess when we're inside, I'm just a little more mellow."
There is nothing mellow about Moreno's role in this year's offense. An untested third-stringer before the season, he has established himself as the team's premier and most dangerous rusher.
He has amassed 268 yards on 47 carries (5.7 yards per run) through three games, and he has led the Bulldogs in carries and yards every game.
"That joker is good from what I've seen," said Alabama senior cornerback Simeon Castille. "He runs the heck out of the football. I know they like to throw it up top -- they like deep balls -- but that running back really impresses me."
Georgia running backs coach Tony Ball said Moreno is more fluent and has more body control than Brown and Kregg Lumpkin. Brown will start a fourth straight time this week, and Lumpkin should play on special teams after missing the past two games with a broken thumb.
Ball is pleased with the energy, speed and ability Moreno has provided but said the maturation process is far from over.
"There is no way he can understand what he's about to get himself involved with this Saturday night," Ball said. "He needs to focus and trust that what he is being told is the right thing."
A week after redshirt freshman Akeem Dent got the start ahead of Brandon Miller at strongside linebacker, there could be further shuffling this week. Backup middle linebacker Marcus Washington has been working as the starter this week, which has sent Dannell Ellerbe to the starting weakside spot, replacing Darius Dewberry.
Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez is pleased to have five guys competing for three spots.
"I think it's really worked for us the last couple of weeks," Martinez said. "Guys are playing more, and we feel more comfortable with them. Guys are making plays, and we've just kind of opened up the competition."
Noting that linebacker is the hardest position to play on defense mentally and physically, Martinez said freshman Rennie Curran isn't ready to join the mix.
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