ATHENS, Ga. — A touted tailback signs with Georgia. He redshirts his first season with three older tailbacks on the depth chart. His first spring is the first real opportunity to capitalize on practice time.
The Caleb King story is a year behind the Knowshon Moreno story.
Moreno was the busiest Georgia tailback last spring because seniors Kregg Lumpkin and Thomas Brown were proven and Brown was sidelined by an ACL injury. King is expected to get the most work this spring, with Moreno having proven himself last season with 1,334 yards, 14 touchdowns and a spot on the All-SEC first team.
“I don’t feel pressure,” King said of having to follow Moreno’s big year. “I’m just going to do what I’ve done since I was young, and that’s play football.”
Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo realizes comparisons are being made between the two and doesn’t believe that’s fair.
“I think a lot of these guys get too much hype coming in depending on how many stars they get,” Bobo said. “Some guys are just different. We’re going to get Caleb ready to play. How fast he’s ready to play is going to depend on him.
“We’re very pleased with him and the progress he’s made, and we’re going to continue to work him and give him what he can handle.”
It’s too early to liken King to the Moreno of a year ago, Bobo added, but he did promise another back who has the potential to be explosive.
King, who is from the Atlanta suburb of Norcross, was plenty explosive at Parkview High School in 2005, rushing for 2,768 yards and 19 touchdowns. His yardage set a state record for juniors, and he was rated by Rivals.com as the nation’s No. 1 tailback entering the 2006 season.
He transferred to Greater Atlanta Christian but didn’t have the senior year he wanted, rushing for 939 yards and 13 scores before sustaining a broken tibia in the sixth game.
Even before the injury, King didn’t like how he looked or felt. Recruiting analysts didn’t either, dropping him from first to eighth among tailbacks by the time he signed last February.
“I had weight that I didn’t want,” King said. “I was around 220. It was just lifting too much weights. I had someone tell me to lift weights, but I put on too much muscle mass. I’ve worked on my flexibility more since I’ve been here, and now I’m around 205.”
At 5-foot-11, King is the same height as Moreno and about the same weight (Moreno is listed at 207). King admits Moreno is the stronger runner but believes he may be able to get outside faster.
“We both work really hard,” King said. “He studied and studied last year, so I’m going to try and do what he did and keep my head in that playbook until I’m comfortable with it.”
Moreno said he hasn’t talked to King about his adjustment from sideline to stardom last season but plans to do so.
When Brown and Lumpkin were injured before the Florida game last October, Georgia coaches almost thrust King into the spotlight. They instead wound up riding Moreno’s 33-carry, 188-yard performance to victory.
“He had two weeks of real serious preparation before we decided not to play him,” head coach Mark Richt said. “That will perk you up in the middle of a redshirt year. He got a lot of work at that time.”
Though he only can judge King by the offseason mat drills and Monday’s practice in shorts, Richt believes he has a much quicker tailback. Richt said King didn’t seemed fazed by the mat drills and is displaying more patience and vision on the field.
As for downplaying comparisons to Moreno at this time last year, well, Georgia’s players aren’t helping.
“I think he’s going to be a spark for us,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “He’s got the potential to take it to the house, which is great to have, and he can also run between the tackles.”
Said Moreno: “He’s a quick back who can be physical at times. He can make people miss. I think he’s going to be exciting to see.”