December 22, 2010

Malcome starting to make strides

It seemingly happens every season.

One young or unheralded Bulldog begins to step up during bowl practice and give head coach Mark Richt glimpses of what he can do.

This year, freshman running back Ken Malcome appears to be that player.

Granted bowl practice results don't always translate to what's going to happen come fall, but in the case of the former Southwest DeKalb standout, he sees the recent strides he's made as a positive step.

"I've probably had my best week of practice since I've been here," Malcome said. "Basically, I'm getting my blocking assignments and I'm getting my blocks right. I'm not messing up on plays and I'm making better runs."

They're not just any old runs.

Malcome has quickly earned the reputation as arguably the Bulldogs' hardest runner, especially during scout team drills when he's pitted his talent against the first team defense.

"Malcome runs hard, real hard," senior linebacker Darryl Gamble said. "He's not afraid to hit you; that's for sure."

Just ask Akeem Dent.

It was a mid-season collision with the team's leading tackler that Malcome said resulted in the concussion that cost him two week's worth of practice, and possibly kept him from seeing the field as a true freshman.

"I probably run with a little more power than the other guys," Malcome said, referring to Carlton Thomas, Washaun Ealey and Caleb King. "But we're all good backs and bring different things."

Flash forward to 2011.

Ealey returns as the incumbent starter next fall, and possibly King, although his status is unclear as it's expected that the junior will have to sit out the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, while Thomas has yet to prove that he can be an every down back.

The Bulldogs are also a finalist for the touted Isaiah Crowell. But even if he does sign with the Bulldogs, Malcome made it clear he intends to compete - and compete hard - with whomever is in contention for playing time.

"I came to Georgia to compete for spots, so that's what I'm going to do," he said. "I'm just going to keep doing what I've been doing - running hard, pay attention in film (sessions) and just doing my best every day."

Position coach Bryan McClendon has been pleased with what he's seen.

"Obviously, Ken's still a young guy but he's been working hard," McClendon said. "There's a lot he still needs to do, but we like him. He's done everything we've asked."

One thing Malcome won't do, apparently, is play fullback.

When asked specifically if Malcome would be a candidate to play the position following the graduation of Shaun Chapas and Fred Munzenmier, Richt gave an emphatic "no," stating a second time on Tuesday that he intends to keep the 214-pounder right where he is.

"Of course, I'd do whatever the coaches asked, but for now I'm a tailback," Malcome said. "Nobody has said anything to me about that (fullback)."

Malcome said he's already looking forward to spring.

Like many freshmen, it took the young back a little bit of time to get accustomed to playing with athletes older and more certain of their abilities than he.

But as the weeks passed, Malcome said he began to grow more confident and come spring drills is ready to show what he can truly do.

"Sometimes as a freshman you come in, you feel uncomfortable and you don't really know what to do," he said. "But once you get out of that shell, you start talking more and get more comfortable with everybody around you; it starts to slow down for you. That's where I think I'm at right now."

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