"I'm laid back," said Kregg Lumpkin, Georgia's freshman running back. "He's the leader in the huddle, the joker. He always joked around in the huddle, had fun."
As they prepare to meet for the first time as opponents when the
Bulldogs and Georgia Tech play Saturday at Grant Field, nothing has
changed off the field.
"It ain't going to mean no
thing," said Reggie Ball, the Yellow Jackets'
precocious starting quarterback. "In between the lines, it's a fight. I
don't care who it is. If my momma's on the field, she's going to get
knocked out, too."
On the field, though, things are very different than they were when
Ball and Lumpkin were teammates at Stephenson High School. Lumpkin was
considered one of the nation's top running backs when he signed with the
Bulldogs in February. Ball was an afterthought in a disappointing
recruiting class in Atlanta.
Now, entering the 12th game of the season, Lumpkin has yet to start a
game, while Ball has started 11 straight and is on his way to being
named the ACC offensive rookie of the year.
"He had a chance to step up and he did," Lumpkin said, "and
Lumpkin was named a CNNSI/TheInsiders.com All-American after rushing for
than 3,500 yards in his final two prep seasons, and he has shown bursts
of his potential. He has 57 carries for 281 yards this year, with 183 of
those coming in the last three games, when he has averaged 5.7 yards per
"He's going to be a superstar, man," fullback Jeremy Thomas
runs like a man. The ladies love him, too, I bet."
Still, Lumpkin is feeling the effect of a slow start. He suffered a
slight hamstring pull before the Bulldogs began live drills in preseason
practice. Then, against the orders of team doctors, he snuck into a
drill on the first day of full contact practice and pulled the hamstring
severely on his first play.
The injury caused him to miss all of preseason practice and the first
two games of the season. By the time he returned, the Bulldogs were
already into their regular schedule, which meant only one day of full
contact during the week. So, not only did Lumpkin miss all the basics,
but there was very little opportunity for him to catch up when he
"I think he's done well, but it's been a slow development,"
coach Mark Richt said. "He's running with more confidence. I like how
he's progressing. He's really going to be good."
But his fundamentals are still lacking. Against Kentucky last week, he
failed to properly block a linebacker on a rollout by quarterback David Greene, forcing Greene to throw the ball away. It was just the kind of
thing the Bulldogs coached in the fall, while Lumpkin was on the
"He'd probably had no live reps of that," Richt said. "He
experience to draw from. To expect him to do that with no live practice
is tough. He's going to continue to improve as he goes on."
While Lumpkin's progress has come slowly and only in areas that coaches
notice, Ball has grown up in the national spotlight. He had a
superlative senior season at Stephenson, throwing for more than 2,000
yards with 19 touchdowns and just two interceptions, but he was
considered more athlete than quarterback, particularly at less than
"Reggie is a guy that Coach (Chan) Gailey kind of stuck his neck out
for earlier in the year to make him the starter. I think everybody can
see why he did that now," Richt said. "It was a great move."
Ball has been the ACC rookie of the week five times this season, but
he's also failed to eclipse 120 passing yards in four games and thrown
three interceptions in an embarrassing loss to Duke. Overall, he's 169
of 324 for 1,900 yards, 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Ball admitted he's surprised to be outperforming Lumpkin this early in
"I thought Kregg could go anywhere in the nation and start," he
"He's one of the best running backs in my eyes, in the nation, but, you
know, things have a funny way of working out. I don't think I'm having
too much more than his success because he has more wins on the board."
Lumpkin said he doesn't resent his friend's rapid rise.
"I'm glad for him," he said. "He's doing real, real
Lumpkin and Ball haven't spoken face-to-face since Nov. 7, when they
both attended a Stephenson game. Lumpkin said he planned to call Ball on
Tuesday evening, but Ball didn't sound receptive to that.
"I won't talk to him, T.J. (Gartrell) or any of my other teammates on
the UGA team this week," he said. "It's just better because there's
going to be some trash talking if we do. They know how I feel, I wish
the best of luck to them and everything, wish them the best, no serious
injuries, but at the same time, I want to get the win, too."
Up until their junior year, Lumpkin, Ball and Gartrell, a wide receiver
who is redshirting this season at Georgia, talked about signing with the
"We were thinking about it, but we never decided on what school would
be best for us," Lumpkin said. "There's no regret because we're both
making a new life in college now."
When it came clear that Lumpkin and Ball were headed for such heated
rivals, the subject of Saturday's game was discussed.
"We were talking about who was going to win this game," Lumpkin
"I guess we'll see."
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