Dawgs Not Using FBs as Often

ATHENS – Midway through the second quarter against Central Michigan, after coming up short on first and second down from inside the 1, Georgia tailback Knowshon Moreno burst through the line of scrimmage and into the end zone for a touchdown.

Usually this would be cause for celebration, but it earned running backs coach Tony Ball an earful from two of his players.

It's not that Brannan Southerland and Fred Munzenmaier weren't happy about the score, but the big guys tend to stick together, and they wanted to know why fellow fullback Shaun Chapas didn't get a crack at the short-yardage touchdown.

"Brannan and Fred, they were getting on Coach Ball," Chapas said, "giving him a hard time about it, joking around and telling him we need to give the fullback the ball."

The lack of a fullback carry actually turned head coach Mark Richt's head, too.

Against Central Michigan, the fullback run wasn't even in the game plan. Georgia ran five plays from inside the Chippewas' 3 in the second quarter alone and was stopped short three times. All five carries went to the tailbacks.

"Handing the ball to the fullback, I talked to the staff about that a little bit because I think we need that, and we didn't have it ready to go," Richt said. "As they studied goal line, short yardage, they didn't have it in the plan. I think you've got to have that fullback run play."

During the past two seasons, Southerland had become Georgia's go-to guy on the goal line, racking up 16 touchdowns in 2006 and 2007 – many coming by way of hard-earned, short-yardage runs.

Southerland injured his foot during the offseason, however, and endured two surgeries – the latter keeping him on the sideline to start this season.

Whether Chapas could fill in for the versatile Southerland with as much success was in doubt, but even Southerland said his teammate should have had the chance.

"I thought he would have had an opportunity," Southerland said, "but we'll see what we do next time we're in the red zone."

It's hard to blame coaches for being wary. Southerland, after all, was a three-year starter with a stellar track record. But in Georgia's first two games without its senior fullback, Chapas hasn't simply been treading water. He has excelled.

"He's been incredible," Southerland said. "I think a lot of people didn't know how he was going to handle it being the starter and everything, but he's hit every block he's been asked to hit."

Chapas didn't get the goal-line touches against Central Michigan, but he did have a shot at the end zone.

On Georgia's opening drive, quarterback Matthew Stafford hit Chapas along the sideline inside Central Michigan's 10. Chapas rumbled to the 3 before being pushed out of bounds.

"I wish I'd gotten a few more yards on them and gotten in the end zone," Chapas said. "I'm going to give it everything I've got to get in next time because I don't know how often (touchdown chances) are going to come."

Chapas should have a few more opportunities at paydirt.

Southerland will miss at least two more games, and Richt said he likely wouldn't be ready to return to the backfield until Georgia's Oct. 11 game against Tennessee.

The time off has allowed Chapas to blossom, but it has been tough for Southerland.

"I feel bad for him," Chapas said. "I can tell he wants to be out there bad."

Even when he returns, Southerland said he's not expecting his starting job to be waiting for him.

Chapas has impressed enough that Ball said the competition for reps will be stiff once both fullbacks are active on game day.

"Brannan certainly will get playing time," Ball said. "Whether he starts the first game when he comes back is yet to be seen. He hasn't played in almost a year. If he's not ready to come back and do the things and be the dominant guy that Shaun is, then he'll have to work himself back into shape."

Ball, however, doesn't consider it a potential fullback controversy. In fact, he's looking forward to the opportunity to have both players on the sideline ready for action.

Last Sunday, he sat in the film room with Southerland to watch tape of the Bulldogs' win over Central Michigan.

As he watched Chapas land one strong block after another, he took a moment to reflect on how far his fill-in fullback had come. After a few minutes, Ball turned to Southerland and commented on how strong the backfield will be when both fullbacks can play.

Southerland nodded in agreement, always happy to hype a member of the fullback fraternity.

"Yes," Southerland. "We'll be a formidable pair."


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