As some turn on Crowell, Marshall becomes next great thing

Isaiah Crowell was often dazzling when he played, here rushing for 132 yards against Auburn. (Brant Sanderlin)

Isaiah Crowell dazzled when healthy, rushing for 132 yards against Auburn. (Brant Sanderlin)

(UPDATED: 4:30 p.m.)

Just 10 months ago, Isaiah Crowell was the star of this strange and creepy obsession we call college football recruiting. He put on a Georgia hat. He raised a bulldog puppy up in the air with an ear-to-ear smile. He was all but designated the next savior of Athens, a running back of immense talents who would help turn around a sinking program and maybe help the Bulldogs to an SEC title, or three.

With his first season not yet complete, Crowell is something less than that, at least in terms of perceptions.

On Monday, the Associated Press designated Crowell as the SEC’s freshman of the year. He rushed for 847 yards and five touchdowns, despite playing in really only nine full games. He is, all baggage notwithstanding, one significant reason Georgia has won 10 games this season. But the honor was not universally embraced by Bulldog fans, many of whom referenced Crowell’s injuries, drug suspension and rumors of him being a discipline problem in comments on blogs, Twitter and Facebook. They believed wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell was more deserving.

This all strangely dovetailed into Tuesday, when the Dogs landed the nation’s most sought-after running back (again), Keith Marshall of Raleigh, N.C. A segment of the same fan base that did everything short of bow at Crowell’s feet now is doing the same for Marshall, while hoping Crowell transfers or is thrown off campus.

What gets lost in all of this is that we’re talking about 18-year-old kids.

Crowell held a bulldog puppy at his announcement.

Isaiah Crowell held up a puppy at his news conference.

I’m not going to get into whether this is fair or unfair. Certainly, Crowell has maturity issues. He deserved criticism for the failed drug test. I’m among those who mocked him over the reported marijuana use during the season. He was suspended for one game and benched for the start of another (for undisclosed reasons). He was frequently injured — and never given the benefit of the doubt when it came to his pain threshold.

There were boos in the Georgia Dome when Crowell kept taking

Keith Marshall is next touted running back headed to Athens.

Keith Marshall is next touted running back headed to Athens. (247sports.com)

himself out of the SEC championship game against LSU because of an ankle injury. Boos. That’s how far his star has fallen. If another player was trying to play through the pain of an injury, he would’ve been celebrated for trying to gut it out. But some now view Crowell as soft, a malingerer, a problem child.

The oversize, mutant stage of college recruiting creates this. Fans and media obsess over the decisions of teenagers. It’s non-stop pampering. There’s an automatic expectation that those who’ve seldom been subjected to criticism, let alone carry a major college football program, will be able to handle growing up in a spotlight. But it doesn’t always work that way.

During Crowell’s official visit to Georgia, coach Mark Richt went to the extent of lining up “players” in an offensive set, leaving the tailback spot vacant for him to see. (It was a brilliant recruiting device, except that it turned out to be a NCAA secondary violation.). But that same Richt was non-committal Monday about who his starter will be in the Outback Bowl.

There are a blur of unconfirmed rumors about Crowell. Nobody is certain if he even wants to come back. He certainly didn’t look like the happiest kid after the SEC game, and seemingly not just because Georgia lost.

I’m not deluded enough into thinking that college athletes should be shielded from criticism. But a little more perspective is in order. Crowell obviously has maturity and discipline issues, but he hasn’t exactly been an abject failure.

Are we so completely lost that we can’t even wait to see if a young man matures when he hits 19 or 20?

It’s possible Marshall will live up to expectations. He came off as a bright and level-headed young man at his announcement Tuesday, when he donned a red Georgia hat with a white “G” on it. He  has a 4.29 grade point average. He plans to enroll at UGA in January.

But what if Marshall doesn’t live up to expectations? Georgia hasn’t had the best record when it comes to hyped running back recruits. Do we build up the next guy and lobby for Marshall’s exit? Is the SEC just too important to wait?

Some perspective, please.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSchultzAJC). Friend me on Facebook (Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC).

1,264 comments Add your comment

WinderDawg

December 6th, 2011
10:13 am

WinderDawg

December 6th, 2011
10:16 am

I think the expectation was set when he committed. Crowell through suspensions, injuries did not meet what was needed. Hard Work and Character would have kept all the fans on his side.

Joe Mayo

December 6th, 2011
10:17 am

Hey Jeff,

How about a great investigative and analytical blog on how well LSU and Alabama do oversigning?

3 + 4 + 1 = 0

December 6th, 2011
10:20 am

We don’t need the great backs … we need the individual that wants to improve by hard work.

blazerdawg

December 6th, 2011
10:22 am

Tempest in a teapot, Jeff. You state yourself that Crowell deserved criticism for the suspension. He has also earned a reputation for being fragile. These episodes exhibit a lack of commitment to the program.

Most folks I know beleive that he fought hard in the SEC CG and better understand his injury situation. If he comes into spring in shape and is successful off the field and in the classroom, he will become a DGD.

You should not knock UGA fans for expressing the same criticism that you just posted.

Jeff Schultz

December 6th, 2011
10:22 am

Joe Mayo — I’ve written several columns/blogs on oversigning, noting that Alabama and LSU have been abusers of it. But I think you also know — or should know — that oversigning doesn’t ensure success. If it did, Houston Nutt would be going to his seventh BCS title by now.

Niner Fan

December 6th, 2011
10:22 am

It’s ridiculous to boo a kid. I had people around me in the GA Dome doing that and it pissed me off. He’s hurt you idiots. He’s made some mistakes but he’s a kid. Did you not do the same thing when you were a freshman?

He was trying to gut it out in a huge game but it didn’t work. You have to give him props for that. True UGA fans will.

Don’t listen to the lunatic fringe, they are fair weather fans.

Marshall and Crowell together sounds good to me.

Ostrich Racer

December 6th, 2011
10:22 am

Crowell is a great runner with tremendous potential. Nobody questions that. What people are skeptical about is his commitment to the team concept. Running hard every time he gets the ball isn’t his only responsibility; there’s also going to class, staying out of trouble, not turning your back on the head coach while he’s talking to you on the sidelines — you know, the little things.

DC

December 6th, 2011
10:23 am

I knew from day 1 that you UGA fans would be upset with him…heard rumors of being a hot head, didn’t look all that great in big games in high school, and was injury prone in high school as well…I don’t care for the kid but he did not deserve your boos in the championship game…all of you who boo’ed him need to reevaluate yourselves…

Bulldawg Charlie

December 6th, 2011
10:23 am

Maybe some genuine competition from another stud like Marshall might be what Crowell needs. We need a stable of good backs, not just one or two.

Buckeye

December 6th, 2011
10:23 am

Ah, the demise of Isiah, The No Longer Annointed One II.

Recall dogs, when I said with sincerity while the Ohio State shinking that I hoped the Isaiah, The (formerly) Announted One II) would be all you hoped for on and off the field.

Well, how’s he workin’ for you now?

On the otheread ther hand, give the 18 or 19 year old boy a break. He deserves a chance to grow up too.

For those wondering who is The Annointed One, check out 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Joe Mayo

December 6th, 2011
10:23 am

I know Jeff, but I think the title game warrants a repost? It is a story that needs to be told. Especially from the standpoint of the kids that gets schollys pulled.

UGA 11

December 6th, 2011
10:23 am

Agree jeff, but are you shocked? We’re SEC fans, not exactly the most reasonable bunch.

I was definitely frustrated with Crowell at times — and I believe the coaches and some of the players are too — but I hope he can rebound and have a productive career. I think landing Marshall would certainly help his situation — that may be the push he needs.

Cobb Dawg

December 6th, 2011
10:24 am

Crowell lost a lot of fans when he got suspended. It’s not hard to not do “what we all know he was suspended for” when you’re trying to be the best student athelete that you can be. Maybe he needs to try harder.

AltamahaDawg

December 6th, 2011
10:25 am

Not sure there actually were boos, but the point is correct that nobody would have even wanted to had it been somebody else gutting it out. (especially since we wouldn’t have even BEEN in the game without him this year).

yeah c'mon

December 6th, 2011
10:25 am

I haven’t turned on Crowell. I just think he has some growing up to do.

McDawg

December 6th, 2011
10:25 am

pathetic is more like it

ty webb

December 6th, 2011
10:25 am

Jeff,
that “booing crowell” meme is stale. Maybe the fact that UGA was running the ball unsuccessfully down 18 points contributed to the “boos”…or maybe Ken “Boo” Malcome entering the game contributed to the “boos”. Maybe you could talk to all in attendance, and poll them with regards to their intent of the “boos”…though your findings may contradict the meme.

Buckeye

December 6th, 2011
10:26 am

To quote the greatest of all dogs, “My God, he’s a Freshman!”

Alphare

December 6th, 2011
10:26 am

Jeff, did you ever say?

“UGA’s defense is as good if not better as LSU’s”

“UGA’s offense is more potent than BAMA’s”

I know I did not. But I did say an iron man may slip on a banana peel.

RxDawg

December 6th, 2011
10:27 am

Actually Jeff, Crowell turned on Richt… during the game… on live TV. That ain’t gonna cut it with me. I’ve defended Crowell on the field. We asked a true freshmen to carry the load and that’s a lot. Plus we don’t know the extent of his injuries so I’m not going to judge him on that. But you don’t turn from the head coach when he talks to you. You listen up, and you do what he says. IC is going to have to shape up with that attitude or he’ll be gone.

AltamahaDawg

December 6th, 2011
10:28 am

I also think that it is comepltely overplayed that Crowell was “crowned” coming in. I don’t recall any real discussion of him being anything but exactly what he was.

Logan Walker

December 6th, 2011
10:28 am

I might be more happy to see Todd Gurley sign with us than Keith Marshall. I’ve heard that he’s a little bit bigger and more of a power guy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m anxiously waiting Marshall’s decision. I want him to come to the University of Georgia as much as the next guy. But I’m just tired of having our scat back being backed up by another scat back. I wish the Bulldogs could get RB’s similar to the Falcons. A big power back, an in between with good hands, and a shifty speed guy.

Buckeye

December 6th, 2011
10:29 am

Altamaha,

Does the word “dream” maen anything to you?

Innocent Bystander

December 6th, 2011
10:29 am

Maybe we should boo a coaching decision. But to boo a college freshman trying to play through an injury? A few years ago Mohammed Massaquoi was booed at Sanford Stadium for a couple of drops.Inexcusable.Saying a fan has a right to is a far different thing from saying it is right to. I don’t suppose IC’s long term prospects in Athens are all that good. Finals are this week. I wish him well.

ub

December 6th, 2011
10:30 am

Crowell will be fine as he gets older and stronger he will be a great back only he can make that happen. We need two backs to win SEC. Marshall and Crowell along with defense and rest of cast would make UGA preseason top five team.

durrty dogg

December 6th, 2011
10:31 am

Do we have to go through this once again? Why are some of the so called GA fans so quick to push another running back out the door? I cant understand it. It was his FIRST year. Chill out. Jeff, I appreciate your articles from time to time but all this is doing is adding fuel to the fire. Do you actually think GA will benefit by losing Crowell even if we sign Marshall? NO!! We don’t have the depth to handle another year like this one. I don’t agree with some of the things the kid “did”. Shoot, I don’t even know if have the things I read were even true. People lie all the time and most bloggers make things up just to get hits. The guy was hurt and all you heard about was he is suspended and he did this and did that. That’s the BS that I’m talking about. Crowell is a beast and he showed that on the field. The SEC is the closest thing to the NFL so of course he wasn’t ready to get hit like that. He was only a freshman and he’s not from some country town where they bread big tough backs. He has to learn. But to me it seems like everyone wants him gone even the journalists. WHY? Let the boy grow up. If he doesn’t, then he will be out. Booing him and talking negative about him when you get all your information from paid sites and bloggers is not right. Most of you have never even met the kid. All I’m saying is we don’t have the time nor the resources at this moment to break in two backs once again. Let the boy live and learn. Geesh!

Innocent Bystander

December 6th, 2011
10:32 am

I hope Ty Webb is right. And yes turning his back on his coach was horrible.

lefty fielder

December 6th, 2011
10:32 am

Marshall has stated he wants to be part of a tandem. That, along with the competition could be just what Crowell needs next year.

Lou Filerman

December 6th, 2011
10:32 am

I think UGA fans were looking for the next Knowshon, and Crowell has been the complete opposite of that.

Self

December 6th, 2011
10:33 am

Carver-Columbis HS is built on the me, my self, STAR program. That creates some interest and reknown for their porgram or that is how I see it. Crowell grew up in this style and he cannot grow beyond it, seemingly.

No, Crowell has done all of this to himself. He was unwilling, apparently to grasp the fact that a college team is FULL OF STARS and that to play well, he should keep his mouth closed and eyes wide open and do his school work.

His social life and “habits” are not that big of a deal to young folks today ……………..but HE IS ON SCHOLLY and therefore should be aware of the drug testing policies …………….as outlined by the SEC and the NCAA, this is not the Muscogee County Shool System. To blow the NCAA rules off is to show lack of maturity. Same is true for Carlton Thomas and Malcome who also got in T with the staff on this issue.

Everything that an athelete desires to be ultra successful is there in Athens. HE HAS to decide which path to take, not sports writers or fans. If not then …………………NEXT !!

UGA class of 71 & 73

AltamahaDawg

December 6th, 2011
10:33 am

Yes, and it was a concept that had nothing to do with Crowell being expected to be anything except excatly what he turned out to be, along with all the others. The term “dream team” was spot on. Did you have a point?

tulsadog

December 6th, 2011
10:34 am

Adams needs to go, and Richt needs to go. It’s that simple.

iloveuga!

December 6th, 2011
10:34 am

Isaiah-work hard, do your best, play hard. Fans will love you!

DC

December 6th, 2011
10:34 am

No, the boos were against crowell…showed it on tv..fans started booing once he was hobbling over to the sideline after he ran the ball…the announcers even pointed it out on tv…

mayrettabengal

December 6th, 2011
10:35 am

who cares about over signing? Its what most schools do, especially those who want to be competitive. Morally it sucks, but this isn’t about morals. Its about winning. And puppy fan, please don’t come at me with “coach richt is a good Christian man”. That’s garbage as far as football goes. He Is as dirty as the rest of them.

lefty fielder

December 6th, 2011
10:37 am

RxDawg
I’ll never forget Bill Curry reaming out a player for celebrating When the player turned his head, Curry stuck a finger in his face mask and pulled his face back to him . . . priceless.

ADS

December 6th, 2011
10:37 am

You mean that dream team crap was just a bunch of baloney? I mean IC was the pinnacle of the dream team. What a joke that program is and it’s coach. It will never be a sec winner.

Scraping Teeth

December 6th, 2011
10:37 am

Crowell will be fine. He needs help at the position and should get it today.

As for the Bama and LSU teams oversigning, Jeff you are wrong in your comment. UM will never get the caliber of players that are willing to sit it out and wait for there turn. UA and LSU can and they do. By oversigning you create depth and depth is what wins in the 4th quarter. CMR plays by the rules on this one and never oversigns for the kids sake. Saban really doesn’t care as much about the kids sake as CMR. This will get cut down with new rules in place. Not completely removed. Keep in mind these two programs identify themselves with the football program only, they have nothing else.

Willie Martinezz

December 6th, 2011
10:38 am

You know…..I think that I would make a great running back. Yes, this can be my re-entry into college football and the eventual new head coach of the GEORGIA BULLDOGS. Yes, me….Willard Martinez

Butts

December 6th, 2011
10:39 am

Anyone who picks #1 as his number is not a team guy and all hype.

Junkyard Dawg2011

December 6th, 2011
10:39 am

I think Crowell has a lot of talent, but I’m worried about his off the field problems and all around attitude, even before the season started there were rumors that Crowell came in with a hot-head attitude and had to be sat down by Ben Jones and Aaron Murray. Now if we sign Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley AND Crowell matures over the off-season I think we will have a great RB corps, I’m also all for Samuels being back there or possible moving over to the FB position.

Just Here...

December 6th, 2011
10:39 am

Hey Buckeye…when are they gonna grow up at Ohio State? Now that Meyer is there?

Scraping Teeth

December 6th, 2011
10:40 am

ADS: we won the SEC east and Crowell won frosh of the year. Wake up pea brain.

RxDawg

December 6th, 2011
10:40 am

Oh Saban and Miles play “by the rules”. But they sure do screw over many a student athelete. Richt and UGA will stand by you and build you up. Bama and LSU will kick you to the curb and let the next guy step in. That’s all good and well in the NFL, but that’s unethical in college. However, since the NCAA and SEC aren’t do anything to stop it… is that what it’s going to take to be able to compete?

RiffRaff

December 6th, 2011
10:41 am

Crowell is a talented kid. He’s got some growing up to do. Still, he’s 18 years old. He’s made some mistakes. RB’s get pounded throughout each game so not surprised he might still be less than 100%. He needs to hit the weight room, mass up and come back stronger next year.

DawgFan (the original)

December 6th, 2011
10:41 am

Give IC time to get well and let’s see how this plays out over the long run. Hopefully the reports of grade issues will not be true and he will get the chance. He certainly has the ability, now just need to see if he has the heart.

ty webb

December 6th, 2011
10:42 am

yeah, and Derne and Danielson are always so accurate…good grief.

ARdawg

December 6th, 2011
10:42 am

Jeff,

I don’t get your point exactly. Is it that he’s a kid and should be shielded from criticism or the fact that college football at this level is a meat grinder? Crowell stepped into it, if he can’t deal with it he needs to step out. There are expectations that go with that free education he’s getting. All he needs to do is meet them. This isn’t nuclear physics we’re discussing here.

AltamahaDawg

December 6th, 2011
10:43 am

Isaiah, Do you stand for *goodness*, or – for *badness*?