December 5, 2008

Determined to improve

As far as freshmen seasons ago, Richard Samuel has certainly had his ups and downs.

First there was a fumble in his first-ever carry, and last week there his fumbled kickoff against Georgia Tech which led to a touchdown which can be argued was the difference in last week's loss to the Yellow Jackets.

While those mistakes certainly wore on Samuel, some fans have criticized his running style; that he carries himself too upright and doesn't see the field particularly well.

Others have questioned why the former Cass High standout doesn't switch back to linebacker, where he also dominated on the defensive side.

Being that he's a freshman, a 17-year-old freshman at that, it would be easy for Samuel to chalk his admitted to mistakes to youth.

But that's not his style.

"Those two (fumbles) were tough to deal with. I know a lot of people say, 'Oh, that's a freshman messing up,' but I don't see it that way. I'm out there trying to show that I'm not a typical freshman," Samuel said. "Just because I messed up (on the fumbles), don't say it's a freshman mistake."

Statistically, Samuel held his own.

The 6-foot2, 215-pounder finished with just 133 yards, but averaged 5.1 yards on his 26 carries and averaged 22.5 yards on 13 kickoff returns, including a season-long 60-yarder against Florida.

"One thing I intend to do is learn from the mistakes that I made," Samuel said. "I'm going to use the experience that I did receive as a learning tool to get better for the upcoming spring. I know I've got to adjust my running style for different situations, and I'm going to do that."

Although he did not begin the year as Georgia's starting kickoff returners, Samuel said he began to embrace the job as the season went along.

So much so that he wouldn't mind doing it again next fall.

"Overall it was a good experience, and it was good knowing that they trusted me and felt I had some ability to go back there and do something good," he said. "It's a good feeling knowing that I've got their trust."

Even after his fumble against Georgia Tech, Samuel said head coach Mark Richt and running backs/kickoff returns coach Tony Ball were quick to voice their support.

"They knew I felt bad. They didn't have to tell me I messed up," Samuel said. "I felt pretty bad about that already."

But according to Samuel, it's the mistakes and knowledge that he still has to learn which fuels his competitive fire.

"The biggest thing I need to work on is slowing down and being more patient in the backfield," he said. "I need to do a better job of understanding some of the identification calls that the quarterback makes, understanding why he made those calls and who I have to block on certain things."

Samuel knows he'll need to be ready.

Should starter Knowshon Moreno forgo his final two years of eligibility and apply for the NFL Draft that would leave Samuel and redshirt freshman Caleb King as backs likely to challenge for the starting job.

The Bulldogs also have the redshirting Dontavius Jackson and Carlton Thomas at their disposal and have a verbal commitment from the talentedWashaun Ealey out of ECI.

This year, Samuel split time with King as the No. 2 tailback, although for Georgia's final three games, the job as been Samuel's alone.

"Sometimes it surprised me the way it worked out," Samuel said. "But I always push myself every time I'm out on the practice field, I work hard and I listened to what the coaches told me to do."

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