We start out Kick-Off Week 2008 with a look at players on Georgia’s 2008 roster who are poised for breakout seasons. Each of these players will see the field this season with a chance to have a direct impact on the success of the 2008 campaign. Here are the breakout players for 2008:
Kris Durham, Junior Wide Receiver
Durham came to Georgia as a member of the recruiting class of 2006 after being an all state performer at the Class AA Calhoun. Durham saw plenty of action during the 2006 season, including a critical reception during the Bulldogs’ comeback victory over Virginia Tech in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Durham’s 2007 campaign got off to a blazing start during G-Day, catching 6 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns. Durham carried this momentum into his sophomore campaign, tallying 11 receptions for 169 yards. Durham was named most improved during the practices leading up to the Sugar Bowl and he responded with a career high 3 catches for 48 yards.
Durham was once again named most improved wide receiver at the conclusion of spring practice in 2008. With the graduation of Sean Bailey, there is an open receiver spot and Durham, along with Kenneth Harris, Demiko Goodman, and freshman A.J. Green, are all looking to make an impact. Kris has displayed good hands and ability to be a valued blocker down field. Look for Durham to be used frequently on quick screens, plays on which he had a lot of success in the Sugar Bowl. I also look for Durham to become a key receiver in the slot this season, particularly in the red zone (similar to how the Falcons have used Brian Finneran in the past) and on third downs.
Richard Samuel, Freshman Tailback
Richard Samuel enrolled early at Georgia in the spring of 2008 as a just-turned 17 year-old college Freshman. In 2007, Samuel played both ways for Cass High School of Cartersville, making plays that would earn him a 5 star recruit status. After arriving on campus, there was debate as to whether he would play running back or linebacker. Samuel saw carries from the back field during G-Day and his role as a running back was solidified. During summer practice, Samuel has entered into competition with Caleb King back up Knowshon Moreno.
There is little doubt in my mind that Richard Samuel will see significant playing time in 2008. Earl and I attended one of Samuel’s games at Cass last season and we saw him make one of the most amazing plays I have ever seen in person. On the last play of the first half, Candy Creek was attempting a field goal from inside the Cass 10. Samuel jumped the snap and hurdled the offensive line. He proceeded to block the kick and after picking up the ball, return it for a 96 yard touchdown. His talent level is amazing, particularly for a kid who will only be 17 during his freshman season. I see Samuel being used in tough situations where his power can be used to gain that few extra yards.
Kiante Tripp, Redshirt Sophomore Offensive Tackle
Kiante Tripp was a force on both lines during his senior year at Westlake High School in Atlanta, picking up numerous honors and rewards. During his 2006 redshirt year, Tripp was used on the defensive line, however lack of depth prompted a move to offense in 2007. Appearing in eight games primarily at right tackle, Kiante was penciled in as the starter at the position for 2008. And then came summer practice.
Tripp continued to impress coaches during the early days of summer practice when starting left tackle Trinton Sturdivant was lost for the season with a knee injury. As rumors swirled about who would take over, many media outlets began to cast doubts on the Bulldogs’ #1 ranking. The solution soon became apparent: Tripp would switch from right to left tackle to provide coverage for Matthew Stafford’s blind side. As a true freshman in 2007, Sturdivant had an amazing season opening holes for Knowshon Moreno and giving Stafford plenty of time. Tripp will be that anchor in Sturdivant’s place and will be a dominating member of an experienced line in 2008.