ATHENS — Caleb King spent the 2007 season watching Knowshon Moreno prove the value of a productive redshirt year.
Now it’s King’s chance.
After sitting out the 2007 season as a redshirt, King is working in spring practice as the top backup to Moreno on Georgia’s depth chart at tailback.
"I think it’s going to be hard for opposing defenses," King said. "We can both make plays."
Last spring, Moreno was coming off his redshirt freshman year and looked to be no better than Georgia’s third option at tailback behind 2007 seniors Thomas Brown and Kregg Lumpkin. Instead, Moreno became a star as he rushed for 1,334 yards — the highest total for a Georgia freshman since Herschel Walker in 1980 — and 14 touchdowns. King says it was no accident that Moreno was ready when injuries to Brown and Lumpkin created the opportunity for playing time.
"I know he studied the playbook," King said. "I tried to do that like he did, to really get comfortable with the playbook.
"I just have to go out there and see what I can do. I’m going to try my hardest to make plays and make something happen."
So far, coach Mark Richt says he’s impressed.
"Just seeing him change direction and watching him kind of feel where the running lanes are and watching him go get it when it was there was pretty impressive," Richt said.
Richt said King looks quicker than a year ago.
That’s part of King’s plan. He said he worked to lose weight after he spent too much time in the weight room during his senior season at Greater Atlanta Christian, following his transfer from Parkview High.
The 5-foot-11 King says he has lost almost 20 pounds from his high mark of 222 pounds.
"It was weight that I didn’t want," he said. "I was just lifting too much weights."
King, listed at 212 pounds, said he’s down to 205 and said he feels he has regained the speed that gives him the ability to break long runs.
King’s senior season was shortened by a broken bone in his leg after he set a Georgia High School Association record for a junior with his 2,768 yards rushing for Parkview in 2005. That junior season left him as one of the top-rated running backs in the nation, and even after the 2006 injury he was perhaps the biggest name in Georgia’s recruiting class.
According to the early reviews from Richt and other players, King is ready to show the hype was justified.
"I was just amazed how hard he hit the hole," said Georgia center Chris Davis after Monday’s practice. "I think it will be great having him and Knowshon both."
Richt already has seen King in full pads, including a two-week audition with the varsity last season when Richt was tempted to play the freshman against Florida.
"I’ve seen him break a lot of tackles," Richt said. "I’ve seen him kind of work his way toward his landmark of where he’s supposed to be running and once he sees it he can dart through it pretty good. He does change direction good.
"He seems to have good patience and good vision and good ability to burst through the creases."
Richt said the 2007 midseason practice audition may have helped King remain sharp through the redshirt year. King joined Moreno in practice when Brown and Lumpkin were injured.
"He had two weeks of real serious preparation and then we decided not to play him, but that will perk you up in the middle of a redshirt year," Richt said.
"Then the rest of the year we kept rolling him in there with the varsity."
Moreno says the redshirt year should help King.
"You can definitely see the difference from last year to this year," Moreno said. "Last year he was just getting used to everything."
King will be a player to watch in the April 5 G-Day spring game.
"It’s just exciting," King said. "I know I’m practicing for something. ... I played in scrimmage games (in 2007). Other than that it’s been a while."