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Bulldogs face a backfield logjam

ATHENS - Danny Ware can't escape the word: fullback.

When he reported to Georgia's football team 16 months ago, almost everyone thought Ware was coming in as a blocking back. He quickly proved he had tailback skills, and he started eight games last year as the Bulldogs' primary ball carrier.

Now, thanks a logjam in the backfield, everyone's talking about Ware being a fullback again, at least part time.

"It's cool," he said. "I'm a team player, it doesn't matter."

With three backs who have averaged at least 4.7 yards per carry in a full season of action - Ware, Thomas Brown and Kregg Lumpkin - Georgia's coaches are trying to find ways to get all of them on the field as much as possible. For Ware and Lumpkin, who are bigger than Brown, that means taking a turn at fullback now and then, the players and several Georgia coaches have said.

The word fullback often makes tailbacks shudder, which may be why running backs coach Kirby Smart is so eager to distance his top three threats from that label.

"Everybody keeps saying fullback," Smart said. "We're trying to get the ball to Danny and Kregg and Thomas as much as possible. That does not mean Danny and Kregg are going to be fullbacks."

Maybe not, but some things certainly have changed.

"We're having to play different positions we're not used to," Brown said.

Brown is lining up at wide receiver in some situations this year, he said. Ware is taking snaps at fullback, he said, but he's quick to point out he's no blocking back.

"I do block every now and then, but it ain't that old, traditional fullback," he said. "It ain't a lot, but it's new stuff."

Lumpkin is having to learn the new stuff from the sideline. He isn't able to participate in live work this spring due to the knee injury that kept him out the entire 2004 season.

"We put some formations in to utilize two tailbacks basically," he said. "I've just got to wait for my turn. Any role they give me, I'm just going to have to fill it. I played fullback in high school. It's not a new thing to me."

"There's no telling what will happen when (Lumpkin) gets back," Brown said.

Bulldogs coach Mark Richt has been reluctant to discuss any specific details of how the three backs will be used, ranging between testy and light-hearted when asked about the subject.

"The word on the street is wishbone," he said this week.

The backfield shuffling affects more than just Brown, Ware and Lumpkin. Fullbacks Des Williams and Brannan Southerland have a stake in the outcome, too. The more formations Georgia uses with two runners in the backfield, the more the Bulldogs' traditional fullbacks sit on the sideline and watch.

"That's what some players don't understand some time," Richt said. "They're not only competing against each other as fullbacks, but they're competing against another personnel group that excludes them. The better (the fullbacks) play, the more excited I am about playing base personnel."

He added he was pleased with his fullbacks and said "don't count them out." Williams said he's not too concerned about losing playing time.

"Me and Brannan know they're going to throw us in there when they need the hard-nosed yards," he said.

"They can do things Danny and Kregg can't do," Smart agreed.

Even without adding the fullbacks to the equation, the Bulldogs are going to have to be creative to find enough carries to add up to a completely happy backfield.

"The only way it'll be bad is if we're all selfish," Brown said. "They told us before spring practice started that we can't be selfish."

Beyond that, Georgia's backs are waiting like everyone else to see how they'll be used in the fall.

"They just told us to get ready for whatever might happen," Ware said. "They told us we're all going to get touches."

NOTES: The Bulldogs scrimmaged for about 90 minutes Saturday in Sanford Stadium. Coach Mark Richt spent most of his time talking to a group of between 80 and 100 junior prospects who were invited to town for the day. "From what I did see, I didn't see much offense, I'll tell you that", Richt said. The offensive highlight came when Thomas Brown scored on a 50-yard touchdown run that was sprung on a block by A.J. Bryant. ... Former Georgia defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, who left in January to become linebackers coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars, has interest in Marshall's head coaching job, according to a report in the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail. ... Backup quarterback Joe Tereshinski was on crutches Saturday with his leg foot heavily wrapped in a bandage. He injured his lower leg and foot sliding into second base in a pickup softball game. He said he expects to be back by Wednesday.