(Updated with Mark Richt comments.)
ATHENS — Isaiah Crowell just signed his letter of intent to attend Georgia. So is it too early to assume he’s the key to next season? I don’t think so.
Crowell is a 5-star recruit. He’s the nation’s consensus top running back. Highlights and statistics from Carver-Columbus project possible greatness. But we’ve seen too much to assume anything. Most recently, we’ve seen Caleb King, a former 5-star recruit who has been a huge disappointment.
But if Crowell lives up to the hype, he will become something even more important than the best player in Georgia’s recruiting class. He’ll be the most important player on the Bulldogs’ roster next season.
When asked how he sees Crowell contributing, coach Mark Richt said, “Heavily. … I wouldn’t be shocked to see him running that rock in the Dome against Boise State on the opening play if he does what he’s supposed to do.”
The Bulldogs have lacked a lot of things lately, but a solid running game tops the list. Poor offensive line play is part of the reason. The other is that the Dogs haven’t found a consistent — or even above-average — replacement for Knowshon Moreno. Last season the team ranked 10th in the SEC in rushing (ahead of only Vanderbilt and Tennessee) and 73rd in the nation. The passing game was fifth in the SEC, 40th in the nation. The onus was on a freshman quarterback, Aaron Murray, and A.J. Green.
King has struggled. Washaun Ealey has been inconsistent and generally a disappointment.
Crowell can make a difference. Great running backs can cover up for deficiencies on a team, particularly on the offensive line. A great running back in college can have at least as big an impact on an offense as a great quarterback. Look what Marcus Lattimore did for South Carolina.
Georgia needs Crowell to be their Lattimore next season. He’ll certainly get the opportunity. Coach Mark Richt is not going to come out with a depth chart Friday that lists Crowell first but the freshman will be given every opportunity to win the starting job.
“I’m gonna be a Dog,” Crowell said after putting on a Georgia hat. For the perfect touch, somebody then handed him a bulldog puppy, and the newest Bulldog held him up in the air.
He was the Dogs’ 25th recruit to sign his letter of intent — and easily the most important one of all.