Lumpkin looking for more in 2006

ATHENS – The long and winding road is not just a Beatles song from the 1960s, it also accurately describes Kregg Lumpkin's career in red and black. From one of the most heralded running backs in the country as a freshman to another back in Georgia's three-man cog, Lumpkin has made his way through injury back to the spotlight in Athens.

Thomas Brown and Danny Ware may never have become household names in the Georgia community had Lumpkin not torn his ACL on the artificial surface on Georgia's lower practice fields. Although the incident had little to do with the surface, Kregg Lumpkin was gone for the season.

"It feels good not to have to deal with stuff like a knee brace," said Lumpkin of the ACL and its aftereffects. "I can run around, cut, move and just try to get back where I was in high school."

Ware stepped from part-time fullback to full-time tailback after Lumpkin's injury, and was the starter soon thereafter. Brown's hamstring injury assured that Ware would be the one to begin the season as a starter.

From that point forward the usually subdued Lumpkin was forced to watch from the sideline as the Bulldogs made their way to a 10-2 season. He told me that he "just wanted to be out there so badly" before Georgia kicked off against LSU in 2004.

It was a year later, but Lumpkin got his shot at the Tigers when Georgia played in the 2005 SEC Championship Game. Lumpkin has 13 carries for 38 yards, and that performance cemented his return to the football field.

Lumpkin admitted that he'd be very excited to get more than 13 carries a game, but said that he would be happy just "to make a difference."

He did just that at the conclusion of the 2005 season. The week before the title game, Lumpkin pounded Georgia Tech running for 74 yards on only 11 carries – he looked like a man possessed. He scored the most significant touchdown in two years with his 34-yard run to stop West Virginia's 28-point scoring streak and help the Bulldogs limp back into that contest.

"Kregg was more comfortable at the end of the year," Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. "I saw some great flashes from Kregg last year and during G-Day."

"It felt great to have confidence in my knee again," said Lumpkin of his performance at the end of last season. "It gave me the ability to run and to get back to where I used to be."

If the end of last season is any indication, Lumpkin now seems poised to continue to get the second-most carries a game behind Brown, but ahead of Ware. The trio combined to give the Bulldogs their most yards rushing in a season (2,108) since Garrison Hearst led the Dawgs to 2,584 in 1992.

And because Georgia is breaking in a new quarterback and returning three talented tailbacks, there is a good chance Lumpkin and company could approach the 2,500-yard level this fall.

"We've not set any group goals, but I am pretty sure we are going to talk about that in the future," Lumpkin said. "It would mean a lot to us."

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