Who will be the breakout star of 2009 on the offensive side of the ball?
Once a top 5 overall high school prospect, who was arguably the best running back in the country as a senior at Greater Atlanta Christian, Caleb King is on the verge of becoming a "has-been" rather than a "will-be" in Athens. Because of the high expectations and a healthy stock of running backs at UGA, the 2009 season is the most important season of King's life. He is entering his third season at UGA and it's now a "do or die" situation for the redshirt sophomore. He should be more comfortable with the offense. He should understand blocking schemes and reading blitzes. He should, therefore, be the no.1 back on the Georgia depth chart. His athleticism mirrors Knowshon Moreno's. He's swift, elusive, and even has a step on old no. 24. What he hasn't shown is strength, passion, and an ability to be a complete back and carry the load for an entire game. He is fighting stiff competition from four other running backs who were lauded out of high school in just about the same reverence as he was. As a result, Caleb King realizes the sense of urgency coming into the Oklahoma State game and he's spent the entire offseason working out and studying film in an effort to become the next great running back in Athens. He's in a perfect situation because the no.1 back will only get 15 -18 carries a game in a committee role - so it won't be his job to carry the load all season long. He just needs to be a solid piece of the puzzle, not the last yellow block in the Rubix Cube. Georgia will build its offense around a more conventional, conservative offensive game plan so it is very important that the running game gets established early and often. Caleb King has the wherewithal to keep the chains moving around a very talented offensive line. It is about time Caleb's talent and experience separate himself from the rest of the touted backs on the team. If he can't do it, his best hope is a "could've-been" on Sniffer's Alley. I personally believe he'll be an "always-was" on Easy Street.
I think it's pretty clear that Georgia is going to have to have more than one guy breakout to be successful. Obviously, Joe Cox has to step up - but he can't try to be a hero, which is why I don't think he is going to be a "star". We have to get some production from Marlon Brown and some other young wide receivers (Rontavious Wooten, Israel Troupe) or make up that lack of production from the tight end spot (Orson Charles). However, I don't think any of those guys are going to make as big of a difference as Carlton Thomas will. While Thomas isn't even starting at running back, and he won't lead the team in rushing (Richard Samuel will do both), he has the best mix of overall skills. Before we "knew" Knowshon you read about him all the time from practice performance. This offseason I've read/heard more about Carlton Thomas than any other "newcomer". I expect Thomas to have over 1100 all purpose yards (600 yds rushing, 300 yds receiving, and 300 yds returning) and to be the heartbeat/energy of our offensive team.
There are a lot of guys that could be mentioned here, such is the case when you lose the likes of Stafford, Moreno and Massaquoi all in the same year. But, for me, I'm not looking at QB, RB or WR for the new BMOC. Cox will be solid, but I don't see him garnering much All-SEC attention, Samuel seems to be separating himself at RB but I'm not ready to launch a Heisman campaign, and Green is already a stud at WR. I'm looking at tight end. I think the breakout star on offense this season will be Aron White. The two incoming freshmen, Lynch and Charles, are getting all the pub, and I think they will both play and look good doing it. But, White is entering his third year in Athens, he's bulked up a little more, and let's not forget - Rivals.com rated White the number 1 TE in the nation in the 2007 class. He showed brief flashes toward the end of last season and will certainly be pushed to continue improving by the talented Arthur Lynch and Orson Charles. I look for 25+ catches, 375+ yards and 5 or 6 touchdowns, with most of this damage coming in the red zone. Yep, I'm going out on a limb here and saying Aron White will be a 2nd team All-SEC selection.