ATHENS, Ga. - Georgia has a likely starter at tailback for its season opener in Ken Malcome and not much separation between its top fullbacks either.
Running backs coach Bryan McClendon Thursday said that former walk-on Merritt Hall and senior Richard Samuel are "1A and 1B" at fullback.
Hall will start for the Sept. 1 opener against Buffalo, but Samuel is definitely in the plans and is splitting practice work between fullback and tailback.
"We're going to try and keep him at both for as long as we possibly can before we have to have him at one spot or another," McClendon said. "The thing that he does so well, he allows you to sort of be in a couple different personnel (groupings) at the same time as far as him being that versatile player." Freshman Quayvon Hicks also "definitely" will play in the opener, McClendon said.
McClendon confirmed what coach Mark Richt said the day before that Malcome is the likely starter, but indicated he might not firmly name a starter or the pecking order at the position before the game.
Freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall and Samuel are also in the rotation.
"It's been probably the stiffest competition that I can ever remember it being around here at that position," McClendon said. "I'm definitely going to try to make sure that those guys get it going as early as possible (against Buffalo), but you don't want to pull anybody out of a rhythm as well." McClendon said Gurley—the leading rusher in all three scrimmages—has had "a very strong camp, but he is not the only one either. Ken and Keith have had impressive camps. You want to make sure that all those guys are sort of shored up on all aspects of their game because you're going into a league that will take advantage of any kind of weakness that you have at any position or as a unit."
Hanging with a celebrity: Actor Samuel L. Jackson hung out with Georgia's two most prominent head coaches Thursday.
Men's basketball coach Mark Fox tweeted out a photo before a round of golf with Jackson. Later, Jackson spoke with the football team and Richt before their practice in Sanford Stadium.
Jackson and Georgia tweeted out photos of Jackson wearing a red Georgia "G" polo shirt.
"Dude's hilarious," cornerback Sanders Commings tweeted.
The practice was closed to the media, but not for the A-lister.
"I've seen a few of (his movies)," defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said.
"I kind of like him in general." Grantham said he didn't speak to Jackson because he was too busy prepping with the graduate assistants before the situational scrimmage.
"I like his temperament," Grantham said.
Jackson, who went to Morehouse College, was also on the field before the Georgia Tech game in Athens in 2010.
Grantham's ends game: When former Burke County standout Cornelius Washington is working at outside linebacker, Garrison Smith is getting first crack at the starting defensive end spot, Grantham said.
Nose guard John Jenkins also can slide over.
"We'll continue to roll those guys," Grantham said. "You've also got Ray Drew who can do some things. We're going to mix and match those guys to try and get athletes on the field." Smith started the final two games last season. Abry Jones is the other starting end.
Georgia is down a player at outside linebacker for the first two games because of the suspension of Chase Vasser.
Washington "is going to play both (end and linebacker) in the rotation," Grantham said.
Third-string nose guard Mike Thornton also has gotten some work at end.
This and that: McClendon said that Branden Smith and Malcolm Mitchell "are the guys you're going to see back there the most" at punt return. ÉSafety Bacarri Rambo and inside linebacker Alec Ogletree—expected to be suspended to start the season—didn't show up in the statistics from Wednesday's closed scrimmage.
Inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti wouldn't say if Ogletree played with the starters and top reserves. "I'm not going to talk about depth charts at all," he said. ÉOlivadotti, who oversees the kickoff team, said Marshall Morgan has done "OK" on kickoffs. He said Jamie Lindley and Adam Erickson are also competing. "Shoot, Collin Barber did it one day," he said.
"We've got a bunch of different dudes doing it. We'll figure it all out." ÉGrantham said that freshman outside linebacker Josh Dawson "definitely is going to play." He said "we'll have to wait and see," on freshman James DeLoach, but "both of those guys got a really bright future." ÉGeorgia is tied with Alabama and Nebraska with most players on the first-ever Senior Bowl watch list. The game is played Jan. 26 in Mobile, Ala. The Georgia players represented: Commings, Rambo, Washington, Jenkins, Marlon Brown, Abry Jones, Tavarres King, Branden Smith, and Shawn Williams.