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July 9, 2008As far as Shaun Chapas is concerned, not one thing has changed.
Sure, the redshirt sophomore is slated to start at least the first two games at fullback for Georgia with Brannan Southerland out injured and Fred Munzenmaier serving a two-game suspension. But when it comes to preparing for the Bulldogs' 2008 campaign, Chapas says everything is status quo.
"Even if Brannan hadn't gotten injured I would have come in with the same mindset to get better and improve from the spring on the things I need to improve on," Chapas told UGASports. "When he went down, I wasn't expecting it. I know he wasn't expecting it. We're just going to roll with the punches and see what happens."
No doubt Georgia coaches will keep their collective fingers crossed.
Nothing against Chapas: Head man Mark Richt is very confident in the Florida native's ability to serve as a lead blocker for tailback Knowshon Moreno and as an occasional outlet for quarterback Matthew Stafford.
However, until Munzenmaier and Southerland return, the position will remain extremely thin. Former Oconee County standout Josh Sailors was the only other fullback listed on Georgia's roster until the Bulldogs moved backup linebacker Justin Fields to the position last month.
"I've got some big shoes to feel, but hopefully I can do some of the same things that he (Southerland) did," Chapas said. "He's one of the best in my opinion, I'm just going to work hard and see what I can do."
Physically, Chapas said he's in the best shape of his life.
After playing at 235 last fall Chapas now weighs 242 after he added seven pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-2 frame and plans to be even bigger than that before preseason workouts begin on Aug. 4.
"I've gained some weight, some good weight. It's muscle. I'm just trying to get myself stronger and faster," Chapas said. "But I plan on getting a little bit bigger. I always try to be a little heavy going into practice because it (weight) can be hard to keep on. We lose a lot during two-a-days."
Although he'll be replacing Southerland in body, Chapas is confident his buddy will be there helping him along the way.
He has for the past two years, so why stop now?
"Ever since I got here three years ago, Brannan's always been there like a big brother. He's helped me with everything. He's always been the first one to take me under his wing since Day One," Chapas said. "If he sees me doing something that I can improve on, something that he knows, he'll let me know. It's kind of different now since we're not practicing, but I can guarantee you when we put on the pads he'll be out there watching my every move and coaching me up."
Chapas saw action in all 13 games for Georgia last fall, albeit in a limited role with 11 rushes for 41 yards and three catches for 22.
Of course, Chapas' main responsibility will be to help open holes for Moreno, a task he takes very seriously.
"One thing about blocking for the best, you've really got to be on top of your game," said Chapas. "But we've got some great backs besides him, and I plan on doing my best for all of them. Caleb's outstanding and I think Richard Samuel and Dontavius Jackson both have some unbelievable raw talent as far as being that young and doing that well. I know I was impressed this spring. I can see them doing great things.
"What was Richard when he got here, 16? I remember I asked him if he could drive. I wasn't even sure if he could drive a car. But seriously, he's so young and so good. I can't wait to see him."
Southerland believes the Bulldog National will like what they see in Chapas as well, starting with the season-opener against Georgia Southern.
"Shaun's very smart and very athletic. This summer he has developed more physically. He's put on the weight, but he's very athletic," Southerland said. "The weight-gain hasn't affected his running at all. I'm excited to see him in camp. He's got all the tools to be a great fullback. He showed it in the games he played last year that he's got the ability."
Chapas just wants to do Southerland proud.
Not only have the two become close friends, but their families have as well.
"My mom has more questions for me about Brannan than about me, but that's good," Chapas laughed. "As far as I can tell, he's handling his situation as good as he can. It's got to be frustrating but he doesn't show it. If he is, he's rolling with the punches and making the most of his situation."
Much like Chapas hopes to do at fullback this fall.