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Early opportunity fuels fullback

Load shift

By Roger Clarkson | roger.clarkson@onlineathens.com | Story updated at 11:59 PM on Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Shaun Chapas has a big hole to fill and even bigger gaps to blast.

Chapas is Georgia's only experienced and available fullback available for the opener, so he'll have a crash course in the backfield's most anonymous position.

Georgia will work without three-year starter Brannan Southerland, who is out the first part of the season with a foot injury. The ranks thinned even more during the summer when Fred Munzenmaier was suspended for the first two games.

"It's a big challenge because those are huge shoes to fill," Chapas said. "But I'm looking forward to it and I'm excited about it. Brannan's been supporting me and helping me out in any way he can."

Chapas, a redshirt sophomore from St. Augustine, Fla., was Southerland's primary backup last season.

Chapas played in every game and had 11 carries for 41 yards.

"He hasn't done it in a lot of games, but he's gotten good time in practice," Southerland said. "He touched the ball a lot in high school, too. If you practice hard, all you've got to do is do it on Saturday."

Southerland had been a fixture at fullback before this season. He had surgery to repair a broken foot in June.

Southerland is missing preseason workouts, plus an undetermined number of regular-season games to start the season.

"What helped me a lot last year coming to this year was getting to play some," Chapas said. "I kind of know what to expect instead of coming into this without knowing what to expect. I'm not a wide-eyed freshman, so I've got an idea what to do."

Chapas must play in the shadow of Southerland's legacy that includes becoming the first fullback to lead the team in scoring since Theron Sapp when Southerland scored 10 touchdowns in 2006. Southerland also has built a reputation as one of the top blocking backs in the SEC.

"Besides being No. 2 fullback and going in as the No. 1 this year, Shaun's a great friend of mine off the field," Southerland said. "I hang out with him all the time. As far as nerves and ability, he's got it down. He's got enough experience from last year. It's not a situation where I want him to do anything bad. I want him to do well. Hopefully when I come back, he's going to be playing great so there's going to be competition to get playing time. That's what we want and it makes the team better."

Chapas' playing time increased as the 2007 season progressed. He was a major component on the kick return team and also had three catches for 22 yards. But he did not score a touchdown as a freshman last season.

Fullback is a high-impact position with blocking being the top priority. The season-ending knee injury to left tackle Trinton's Sturdivant will shift more of the blocking load to the fullbacks.

"He can do all those things," tailback Knowshon Moreno said. "He can run. He can block. He can catch the ball coming out of the backfield. That's what you've got to have and he's showing it on the practice field."

Munzenmaier should return from a two-game suspension in time for South Carolina. Southerland will return some time after. Until then, even the tight ends are expecting to carry a lot of the blocking load.

"We'll definitely shoulder some of that because the tight ends and the fullbacks can be interchangeable in certain things," Tripp Chandler said. "If we need to go in there, if Chap needs a blow or something, we can definitely go in there. That's something tight ends have to learn is how to play a lot of positions, whether it's blocking or pass catching."

August 30

Georgia Southern at No. 1 Georgia

Sanford Stadium

12:30 p.m. (PPV)

Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on 081408

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