Thomas Settling into Role

ATHENS - Carlton Thomas doesn't gloss over spending time in the training room all that often these days.

Soaking in the cold tub has become a necessary therapy for the Georgia junior running back.

That's because Thomas has quietly become the No. 2 option behind starter Isaiah Crowell. Junior Richard Samuel is still listed as the backup, but Thomas has been the tailback to first spell Crowell in the past two games.

"It's just opened my eyes," Thomas, 5-7, 163 pounds, said. "It's given me motivation to work extra hard, even harder than I was before. You get more carries and when you contribute more it makes you more sharp."

Crowell is the clear-cut starter, but the coaching staff has been hesitant to give the freshman the full load so early in his career. Thomas has taken to spot-duty well.

He had a career high 15 carries and 71 yards against Coastal Carolina. Last week against Mississippi State, Thomas scored the team's lone rushing touchdown.

"After scoring the touchdown it obviously felt good helping the team at a time when we needed it," he said. "The offense did a good job of putting together a lot of good drives and keeping the momentum going. I kept the momentum going by putting it in the end zone and giving motivation to go out there and do it again."

Thomas says he had to "make the coaches trust" in his play following a suspension in the season opener for violating team rules. That meant not fumbling (a hitch during the first two seasons of his career) and improving his blocking.

"With me being undersized of course that's going to be the first thing people question is protection," Thomas said. "Just like any other skill, the more you do it the better you get. You can't slack off at it. If you get lazy in any of the technique it can cause problems. I'm focused on technique and doing things right."

And with the added playing time for a running back in the SEC comes increased time spent in recovery.

"As you get into the middle of the season it's a grind," Thomas said. "You've got to stay motivated and your body has to be ready to perform at all cost."

Fixing his approach

Senior kicker Blair Walsh has fielded more questions in the past month about missed kicks than he has in his previous three seasons combined at Georgia.

But the Boca Raton, Fla., product is somewhat flattered by inquires about his 6 of 12 performance on field goal attempts through five games.

"The good thing about these kicks now is that none of them have really cost us the game," he said. "It's nice that people are sort of surprised by it because that means that I don't miss very often. That's a positive way to look at it."

Walsh is right. He missed only five kicks the previous two years combined. But three misses against Ole Miss and another failed attempt against Mississippi State have placed his reputation of sure-footed kicker in doubt.

"I looked back at my film and there was a couple of steps that I had to correct in my overall approach to the ball," he said. "I think I corrected it this week finally, and hopefully it will show the results."

Walsh's problems aren't with distance or radical misses. He says his performance on kickoffs is a good indicator that he'll pull through this slump. His 13 touchbacks are tied for second-most in the SEC.

"I think my leg has definitely gotten stronger," he said. "I just have to hone everything done into the field goal right now and start putting the ball through the uprights."

The one constant behind Walsh had been coach Mark Richt. He's continued to give his kicker the vote of confidence and says Walsh will rebound.

"I think so," Richt said. "I'm counting on it."

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