Running backs coach Bryan McClendon was unable to suppress a slight chuckle when asked if confidence was ever an issue with freshman running back Washaun Ealey.
What do you think?
"With Washaun, you saw the progression. Some stuff came real easy, some stuff not so much. With him coming from that great program at ECI, you knew he was durable, you knew he was going to struggle a bit pass protecting, but you saw all the right things," McClendon said. "But as far as his confidence, I don't think that's ever going to be a problem with him."
It's no wonder.
After being buried on the depth chart to start the season, Ealey was barely an afterthought until finally getting his chance midway through the season, when he combined with redshirt sophomore Caleb King to give Georgia what turned out to be a fairly impressive backfield tandem.
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Ealey rushed 112 times for 639 yards and three touchdowns, with King chipping in with 98 carries for 534 yards and five scores.
Not bad for a couple of players who coming into the season were technically third and fourth on the depth chart behind Richard Samuel and Carlton Thomas when the season began.
"The biggest thing that helped them turn the page was that no matter how they felt, when it came out there, no matter how they looked at every game, whatever chance they had to step on that field they knew they had to get better," McClendon said. "They sort of took that upon each other. They both feed off each other, which is a great thing to see. But I think them working hard, I don't want anybody to start crowing those guys the next so-and-so, but they are some talented guys. They're still young, there's still a whole lot of football for those two to play so we're going to see how that goes."
King marvels at the progress his young teammate has made.
Ealey arrived in Athens after a record-setting career at ECI, where he set the state of Georgia single-season touchdown mark of 58, wrapping up his career with a state record 133 career scores.
However, Ealey soon learned that life as a collegian was going to be significantly tougher.
"At the beginning, I wouldn't say he was running scared, but he was stiff, but I just told him to relax and open up," King said. "I just told him to settle down and run hard."
That's just what Ealey did.
After slowly establishing himself as the Bulldogs' go-to back, Ealey exploded in the season-finale against Georgia Tech, exploding for 183 yards, with King chipping in with a career-high 166 and two touchdowns in the Bulldogs' 30-24 win.
"That was a lot of fun, just going out there and show the world the Georgia way - to just go out there and pound the ball," Ealey said. "That's what football is all about. It's fun to go out there and beat up on people."
So what does the future hold?
On Monday, the duo will be looking for similar results against the Aggies.
After that, the focus shifts to 2010 where the duo will be counted on to spearhead a Bulldog offense which will be breaking in a new quarterback following the graduation of Joe Cox.
How good can they become?
"A lot of it is still up to them. I know that I can only do so much, but it's my job to help stay as humble as I can, too, but a lot is up to them," McClendon said. "They can't feel like they've arrived, ever. They can never feel like they've arrived. That's something that they saw early in the year, just to come out there and keep working, no matter what happens."
McClendon sees no reason why the pair can't continue to share carries be effective.
"I think it speaks to the person that each of those guys are. Again, it's that special relationship that they have with each other," McClendon said. "They feed off each other, they ask each other questions. One can tell the other what they see out on the field and vice-verca. I think it's a special relationship, not just with those guys but all those running backs do that pretty well."
As for Samuel, Thomas, Kalvin Daniels and Dontavius Jackson, McClendon said he's told the trio not to get too down too down on their current circumstances.
Although it's been mentioned that coaches might consider moving Samuel to linebacker this spring, McClendon said Tuesday he still considers the sophomore a vital part of the backfield.
"It's sort of how it worked out with Caleb and Washaun, you had guys get hurt, guys go down and a lot of it was up to them to beat some guys out, too," McClendon said. "They all get that opportunity, they've got to go out there and keep working because you don't know what's going to happen. You don't know who's going to go down and you don't know when your number is going to be called."
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