September 24, 2009

McClendon looking for consistency

Running backs coach Bryan McClendon doesn't know who will start Saturday's game against Arizona State, but said both Richard Samuel and Caleb King are each assured of seeing plenty of time.

As far as which will start, that decision may not come until right before Saturday's 7 p.m. kickoff at Sanford Stadium.

But as McClendon puts it, whoever starts is really not that big of a deal.

"Both are working with the ones and both of them are going to play," McClendon said. "They're splitting reps pretty evenly and that's definitely the plan this time (Saturday)."

McClendon said he was impressed with King's performance against the Razorbacks, his first game action since pulling his hamstring in the first week of preseason camp.

The redshirt sophomore carried 11 times for 59 yards after coming in for Samuel, who despite rushing for 104 yards and one touchdowns, fumbled twice.

"All week Caleb did a good job of paying attention, knowing what to do. He was at every meeting early; he was answering all the questions," McClendon said. "I knew he'd be able to pick up certain things once he got on the field."

King said he was pleased with his effort.

"I was a little rusty, being that was my first time on the field," he said. "But I'll be ready (Saturday)."

King proved his durability in the game as well.

Fatigue in practice had been an issue leading up to the game, but King showed no signs of weariness and appeared to get strong as the game moved along.

King also impressed McClendon with his pass protection, the very aspect of his play that ran the player afoul with coaches last fall.

"That was my goal," King said. "I just wanted to go out and block well and I think I did that."

He also managed to hang onto the football, which is always huge in McClendon's book.

"He protected very well and held onto the ball well, so he's definitely done a lot of what he can do in order to stake his case," McClendon said. "But this week is a new deal. It's a whole new ball game, so we're definitely going to see how he adjusts to what we do for this game."

McClendon just wants Samuel to hang onto the ball.

Turnovers weren't a problem for the sophomore during preseason camp, but according to McClendon two in one game was a little much. While he was pleased with Samuel's effort and thrilled for his 80-yard touchdown run, the fumbles are enough to make even a young coach like McClendon to pull out his hair.

"It still drives you crazy," he said. "I was proud when he broke that long one but it still concerns you."

Apparently, it's all about focus.

"They just have to focus on ball placement, how they're carrying the ball and make sure it's a habit that they're carrying it the right way and they have the ball secured and taken care of," McClendon said. "It becomes a habit and something that's been overly stressed this week. I don't think it is (fumbles) a big problem but you want to nip it in the bud when you see it happening any."

The re-emergence of King could mean bad news for Carlton Thomas.

Thomas has been spelling Samuel getting work as the No. 2 tailback, but now that King has returned Thomas' touches could start to decrease.

"Carlton's working great, but it's tough to try and play three backs," McClendon said. "You've just got to keep making sure that he knows what to do, so when he does get in we're able to run the offense with him in there."

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