Georgia seems to be developing a similar system with its fullbacks, but there's one big difference, says Ken Rucker, Georgia's running backs coach who was at Texas A&M for five seasons.
For the Aggies, it's tradition. For the Bulldogs, it's necessity.
"The need is just so great," Rucker said.
Fullbacks are often overlooked on the field, and they seem to go
similarly under appreciated come recruiting season, but No. 9 Georgia
has found a more-than-adequate system for filling the void. Starter
Jeremy Thomas is the third player in as many years to walk-on, serve his
time on the scout team and then earn a scholarship and start.
The last two, Verron Haynes and Milledgeville's J.T. Wall took it one
step further by being drafted in the NFL.
"I think it's a good walk-on position, one reason is I don't think
have to be super athletic to play it," Thomas said. "We've got some
guys, but it's not like you have to be a low-something guy in the 40 and
be the strongest guy on the team or the quickest. You just have to be a
tough guy, go in there every play and give it all you've got."
Wall isn't the only Middle Georgia product to take advantage of
Georgia's system. Forsyth's Jamario Smith walked on at Georgia after
spending one year at Gordon College in Barnesville and now backs up
Thomas. Hunter O'Brien and Antowin Clowers of First Presbyterian Day
have also tried to crack the rotation in the last two years.
"They came it saying the same thing," Smith said. "We
wanted to be
like J.T. and Verron.
Thomas, a junior from Loganville, has 11 carries for 34 yards and six
catches for 97 yards. The Air Force Academy leads the Bulldogs in yards
per catch among players with more than one reception and is coming off
his best game of the season, a bruising performance against Florida.
"I didn't know anything about the tradition, but I found out when I
got here," he said. "It gave me a little inspiration seeing (Wall and
Thomas has missed two games this season due to a concussion,
illustrating the drawbacks of the position.
"You have to look at every block as a personal battle between you
the defender and really take it serious because you are throwing your
body in there every play," he said. "It's not like you're
their making a cut and dodging a guy. You're running full speed into a
guy every play."
Rucker calls fullback a throwback position, which is one of the
reasons it's a good fit for players whose attitude outweighs their
"It's a position for a player who comes in and shows you he's
dedicated to hitting," Smith said. "I just see the position as a
football position. Anybody who will give his all for the team can play
Richt said the position is often a good fit for "high school
linebackers who may not be quite as fast as you want at this level."
Thomas and Smith were both on the scout team defense when they arrived
at Georgia and caught the coaches' eye with their willingness to hit
"There are a lot of guys who can fit that position," Richt
don't have to be super fast, but you have to be tough."
If Georgia's coaches have their way, the mini-tradition will end soon.
Earlier this season, they moved scholarship linebacker Des Williams to
fullback, and Rockmart's Danny Ware, who signed last year but failed to
qualify has made the required test scores and plans to be at Georgia
next year to join the competition for the job.
Until then, Thomas will keep earning his college education by throwing
his body into linebacker after linebacker, and Smith and the rest will
keep trying to be the next in line.
"It gives them hope for the opportunity to play a part,"
Walk-ons make splash at Fullback
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