Crowell had issues but replacing him not easy for Georgia

Isaiah Crowell was a headache, but he was an impact player on field. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Isaiah Crowell was a headache, but he was an impact player on field. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

ATHENS – Notwithstanding all of the words that have been spewed or written about Isaiah Crowell – some factual, some imagined by the ScreaminDawg39s on message boards — since he was summarily dismissed from Georgia, one thing is undeniable:

He was good. Really good.

It’s easy to forget that. Many would rather talk about Crowell’s perceived lack of dedication, or his immaturity, or that he was soft. (It’s rare that even Vince Dooley calls you out.)  Let’s assume all that were true. What does it say that Crowell still ran for 850 yards and five touchdowns in little more than 10 full games and was named the SEC’s freshman of the year?

It follows that when Georgia opened practice Thursday, there should’ve been no reason to celebrate Crowell’s absence. He left a void. If the Bulldogs don’t lack talent at running back, they at least lack certainty at the position and they may lack greatness.

Georgia is favored to win the SEC East Division largely because of its defense and quarterback Aaron Murray. But its chances of winning the conference championship and competing for a national title hinge on two things: 1) The offensive line, which was an issue even before Thursday’s news that projected starting right tackle Kolton Houston remains ineligible after testing positive for a banned substance from 2010; 2) A running back finding room to run even when there’s little or no room there.

Great running backs can hide the deficiencies of an offensive line, just as a great line can make a running back look better than he really is.

The Dogs were average up front last year. They have only two starters back. Nobody is getting ready to scream, “Hogs!”

“One of our biggest challenges this camp is to put together our starting five,” coach Mark Richt said Thursday.

Freshman Keith Marshall is probably Georgia's best hope for an impact running back this season. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Freshman Keith Marshall is probably Georgia's best hope for an impact running back this season. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Those generally aren’t comforting words four weeks before a season opener.

Nor should anybody feel good about the term “running back by committee.” Yes, as Richt pointed out, it worked for LSU last season. But LSU linemen look like transfers from nearby meat freezers.

Crowell was dismissed after a felony gun arrest and transferred to Alabama State. Last year’s No. 2 tailback Carlton Thomas (suspended three times) left the program with an intent to transfer.

The year before, troubled starting back Washaun Ealey was granted his release (Richt then: “We both have come to the conclusion that a transfer to another institution would be in his best interest.”) and Caleb King (multiple suspensions) was ruled academically ineligible and left.

So this makes two consecutive years that Georgia has lost its two most productive tailbacks from the season before for reasons other than the NFL, or graduating with honors.

Richt hopes freshmen Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley can have an impact early. Maybe senior Richard Samuel and sophomore Ken Malcome also can contribute. But understand: Running back by committee shouldn’t be celebrated, any more than platooning quarterbacks. If one guy was considered exceptional, he would start.

Samuel, who may wind up at fullback, acknowledged: “Isaiah is a real talent. It’s difficult not having somebody of that ability on the field. But Keith and Todd bring something different as far as a running style. … It’s a slight concern. But we have faith in those young guys.”

Richt said he is counting on not only the line coming together but his quarterback checking into and out of the right play and formation. As for Crowell, the coach is doing his best to minimize the perception that the player’s loss will have a significant impact.

“You know what? These guys are pretty talented, too,” he said. “And there’s a lot of talented running backs. Just look across America.”

Georgia just needs one to become a difference maker. But even with Crowell’s baggage, understand that he was better than most.

By Jeff Schultz

313 comments Add your comment

ZDog

August 2nd, 2012
4:38 pm

KM and TG are going to do big things, WOOF

dbc

August 2nd, 2012
4:39 pm

And he was also better than most at being a slacker and getting into trouble.

Dave

August 2nd, 2012
4:41 pm

Crowell was an exceptional talent, but he got hurt and winded too easily. To be honest, Boo Malcome ran the hardest and toughest at the end of the season. I agree that he will be the #1 back heading into the season. He doesn’t have the breakaway speed, but will get the extra yardage. Marshall and Gurley are good backs that have yet to be on a field when most everyone is as good and fast as they are. I’ll put them as “wait and see”. We’ve had a ton of supposedly great backs in high school that wound up being average to slightly above average when an SEC linebacker hit them. That being said, I have endured way too much boring baseball and can’t wait for the football season to start. And I don’t give a rat’s behind what our schedule is or who’s on it. I’ll be just as excited in my season’s ticket seat (for 21 years) when we play Buffalo as I will be when we play South Carolina….just not as nervous. GO DAWGS!

ScreaminDawg39

August 2nd, 2012
4:43 pm

i take offense to this

It's Almost Friday

August 2nd, 2012
4:46 pm

The dawgs are favored to win the SEC east becasue of their super soft schedule.

ARdawg

August 2nd, 2012
4:47 pm

Schultz

Yeah the kid was good. If he had applied himself he could have produced at least twice that. Isaiah I am afraid will go down as just another “would’a, could’a, should’a”. Brimming with a lot of potential and a lot more of himself.

Enough of Isaiah. Will someone else pick up that production. I say with full conviction yes. Probably Malcome with ease and possibly Gurley and Marshall have potential of a phenom. Samuels likely on tap for a good year at TB.

It could be said Crowell produced what he did because basically, he was put into the position to do so. The kid is special, too bad he never realized in what way

5150 UOAD

August 2nd, 2012
4:48 pm

There have to be some other kids out on BAIL that can run fast too.

Son of Sammy Davis Jr, Jr

August 2nd, 2012
4:48 pm

Joey

August 2nd, 2012
4:49 pm

Mark, I think when the season gets at the midway point, Gurley will have learned the offense good enough to become the man.

He’s big and fast, and if our line canmake a few holes, he will be rested and healthy, and a force.

Mark it down (no pun intended).

Bob Crane

August 2nd, 2012
4:49 pm

True dat on the easy schedule.

Dave

August 2nd, 2012
4:50 pm

“The dawgs are favored to win the SEC east becasue of their super soft schedule”

Like that has mattered at all to the Ohio States, Floridas, Oklahomas and USCs when they won their Natl Championship. You can’t make your own schedule. All you can do is beat everyone on your schedule. All of those conference and national champions just lean back for a good laugh when someone brings that up. It doesn’t say “National Champions…but they played a soft schedule”. Sit down, shut up and know your role.

Dawg Haus

August 2nd, 2012
4:52 pm

When Crowell felt like getting on the field, he was an impact player for the Dawgs. Replacing him won’t be easy, but everything should be fine at RB. Malcome started developing into a solid back last season, Samuel can always be counted on and if Marshall and Gurley are as advertised, the Dawgs still have a decent stable of RBs.

ARdawg

August 2nd, 2012
4:52 pm

The cancer that was Crowell far outshined his abilities

Hankie Aron

August 2nd, 2012
4:52 pm

that’s funny Screamin

Bob

August 2nd, 2012
4:53 pm

Schultz…I know you had to take the devil’s advocates side in order to justify your six figure salary, but Crowell was a cancer on the team. Granted, he had loads of talent and ability, but he was a dunce. Our team is 100% better with our current RBs. Thanks for your article.

Dawgie

August 2nd, 2012
4:54 pm

I read somewhere that Marshall has bulked up from 195 and is now around 215. If only that were true.

Joey

August 2nd, 2012
4:54 pm

Funny to me that the same fans who thought our O-line was too fat and slow last season, and couldn’t pass protect or run block, weren’t impressed by a 18 yr old RB who rushed for 850 yds, and was SEC Freshman of the Year.

Doesn’t matter now, but it just makes you wonder how soon they will be on Marshall’s and Gurley’s case after 3 or 4 games.

Patience, Grasshoppers . . .

chilidawg

August 2nd, 2012
4:56 pm

He was good, but I suspect we will have a better TEAM without him.

Top Dawg

August 2nd, 2012
4:57 pm

Well put Dave… No team has an easy schedule in the SEC. “Soft”… Really?… Really????

Top Dawg

August 2nd, 2012
4:57 pm

Well put Dave… No team has an easy schedule in the SEC. “Soft”… Really?… Really????

ARdawg

August 2nd, 2012
4:58 pm

Dawg Haus

I foresee Malcome finally having his time to rise and taking advantage of it. Richt is right, all of those guys have talent. Do they jump right out of the gate? Only time will tell. We don’t have to depend on the young horses just yet. Hopefully they get plenty of totes. That wasn’t the case with Crowell. He was about the only horse in the stable

5150 UOAD

August 2nd, 2012
4:59 pm

Crowell was the Freshmen of the Year VOTED by WRITERS

The COACHES(who Know the game) Selected USC’s Clowney the Freshmen of the Year!

1eyedJack

August 2nd, 2012
4:59 pm

We’ll go to war with the warriors we’ve got. Maybe we’ll get lucky and Saban will put one of his gazillion backs on waivers.

Joey

August 2nd, 2012
5:02 pm

Oh yeah, chili. He impressed me as a runner, but mentally, he’s a mess.

Hope he gets it together.

Hope even more we get our running game together . . .

Doug

August 2nd, 2012
5:08 pm

I don’t know why everyone is worried. What does it matter, Crowell almost was never on the field in the 4th qtr, never did he take it to the house on a long run. We now have two backs who are much better and w/Todd Gurley, give him a crack and he is gone. Plus, and maybe the best part, is both are good citizens. Then we have Ken Malcomb who was coming into his own at the end of the year. I think we are just fine at RB, the issue to worry about, if you have to worry, is the OL. It may take three backs to survive this season if that doesn’t come together.

Mike S.

August 2nd, 2012
5:08 pm

Crowell was talented, but 850 yds in a season where your team plays 14 games really isnt something to worry about. Most of those yards came against teams you can pretty much line anyone up against…Ole MIss, Miss St., Auburn…teams that couldnt stop a local high school from running the ball.

I think we will miss the player Crowell SHOULD be this year, IF he put his head on straight. There was never a guarantee that would happen, which is why UGA has been heavily recruiting RBs. Its tough to start over again for sure, but I dont see UGA being any worse off overall than last year at RB.

Doug

August 2nd, 2012
5:08 pm

I don’t know why everyone is worried. What does it matter, Crowell almost was never on the field in the 4th qtr, never did he take it to the house on a long run. We now have two backs who are much better and w/Todd Gurley, give him a crack and he is gone. Plus, and maybe the best part, is both are good citizens. Then we have Ken Malcomb who was coming into his own at the end of the year. I think we are just fine at RB, the issue to worry about, if you have to worry, is the OL. It may take three backs to survive this season if that doesn’t come together.

The T back spot accounted for X yds per game

August 2nd, 2012
5:08 pm

IC can be replaced with a tandem of two or three really good backs that will hopefully, remain fresh late into each game. IC churnned up 850 yds for 5 TDs great. We have Malcome and Richard Samuel and the TWO highly regarded new North Carolina backs, plus one or two of the smaller guys like Harton. Last yr at this time, both Malcome and Samuel were simply not ready, like they are this year.

LSU shuttles backs in and out and if UGA wants to win, then we do it this way.

I for one am sick and tired about this time of year, hearing that we only have like 7 O line guys on campus. This is the 12 years in a row NORM at UGA. This will be the end of this CMR regime as injuries mount, we will not be a contender and this fact is directly due to NO Quality Coaching for the O line and NO ONE to attract the big guys that we need on the O line to win big.

Every year UGA signs maybe 2 or 3 O. linemen and we end up seeing 3 or 4 of them walk off or get hurt. Over 3 or 4 years, you end up with no depth and that is where we are now without taking the first snap.

This is why I am figuring at best on a 9-3 or 8-4 year. It is UGA under Mark Richt. Flankers, wide outs, QBs and LBs and DBs and such do not win games. In the SEC you win with line of scrimage play and DEPTH.

UGA man, class of 71 & 73

The T back spot accounted for X yds per game

August 2nd, 2012
5:08 pm

IC can be replaced with a tandem of two or three really good backs that will hopefully, remain fresh late into each game. IC churnned up 850 yds for 5 TDs great. We have Malcome and Richard Samuel and the TWO highly regarded new North Carolina backs, plus one or two of the smaller guys like Harton. Last yr at this time, both Malcome and Samuel were simply not ready, like they are this year.

LSU shuttles backs in and out and if UGA wants to win, then we do it this way.

I for one am sick and tired about this time of year, hearing that we only have like 7 O line guys on campus. This is the 12 years in a row NORM at UGA. This will be the end of this CMR regime as injuries mount, we will not be a contender and this fact is directly due to NO Quality Coaching for the O line and NO ONE to attract the big guys that we need on the O line to win big.

Every year UGA signs maybe 2 or 3 O. linemen and we end up seeing 3 or 4 of them walk off or get hurt. Over 3 or 4 years, you end up with no depth and that is where we are now without taking the first snap.

This is why I am figuring at best on a 9-3 or 8-4 year. It is UGA under Mark Richt. Flankers, wide outs, QBs and LBs and DBs and such do not win games. In the SEC you win with line of scrimage play and DEPTH.

UGA man, class of 71 & 73

BenB

August 2nd, 2012
5:08 pm

The record for retaining running backs is poor. Doesn’t this point out a deficiency in recruiting? Richt must be looking solely at the great football talent and not at the character or academic capabilities of the individual. It is sad when you lose so many talented people.

Doug

August 2nd, 2012
5:08 pm

I don’t know why everyone is worried. What does it matter, Crowell almost was never on the field in the 4th qtr, never did he take it to the house on a long run. We now have two backs who are much better and w/Todd Gurley, give him a crack and he is gone. Plus, and maybe the best part, is both are good citizens. Then we have Ken Malcomb who was coming into his own at the end of the year. I think we are just fine at RB, the issue to worry about, if you have to worry, is the OL. It may take three backs to survive this season if that doesn’t come together.

Dawg Haus

August 2nd, 2012
5:08 pm

I hope so, ARdawg. Malcome looked really impressive toward the end of the season, especially in the Dome when the rest of the team had seemingly already given up. I’m hoping he and Samuel can show Marshall and Gurley the ropes before they’re both thrust into the spotlight. I think it’s safe to say we will see all four of these young men playing in 2012.

Dawg Haus

August 2nd, 2012
5:09 pm

I hope so, ARdawg. Malcome looked really impressive toward the end of the season. I’m hoping he and Samuel can show Marshall and Gurley the ropes before they’re both thrust into the spotlight. I think it’s safe to say we will see all four of these young men playing in 2012.

ARdawg

August 2nd, 2012
5:09 pm

I feel good about our backfield. If Richt had options last year, IMO, Crowell wouldn’t have had that much of the UGA production. We’re in better shape now than a year ago. Dawg fans have to feel good about it

Dawg Haus

August 2nd, 2012
5:09 pm

Sorry for the double post.

LagDawg

August 2nd, 2012
5:11 pm

Crowell was very talented but, he spent more time on the bench than in the game. Talented, but stupid at the same time. A RB is more productive when actually plays. I say he had been given ample opportunities to straighten up his ways and he continued to dissappoint. When you are trying to run a top program, maybe should try to recruit talent but, intelligent players. Take this year, 36 scholorships availabe and still the talent level should be higher. Seems like UGA recuits to stay mediocre not to compete for NC every. With the talent pool in the state, there is no way that UGA should not be competing for the NC every year. Alabama has a very small talent pool, but they are consistently bringing in the top recruits and winning NC. Plane and simple, the coaching needs to get better or get gone.

Dawg Haus

August 2nd, 2012
5:14 pm

ARdawg, I’m also looking forward to Quayvon Hicks getting some playing time at fullback. Kid looks like a monster!

ARdawg

August 2nd, 2012
5:15 pm

ebb and flow LagDawg. Often in college football you just don’t get the results you are expecting. The Dawgs could run the table and play for a NC. Nobody would be more surprised than I. Then again I expect a 2-3 loss year. About what I expected two years ago and we were 6-7. One just never knows

Grantham's The Man!

August 2nd, 2012
5:19 pm

Crowell will be missed, especially early in the season.

Crowell’s talent and production can be replaced by many another who may not be as ”talented” but who have more heart and are willing to give up their body against a defensive end or linebacker,something that Crowell didn’t wan’t to do.

Best of luck to Isiah, but Ga will be better off for it in the end.

PuffDawg

August 2nd, 2012
5:22 pm

IC would have been the man this season, somebody was burning candles on him and a few others, I know this. He had the routes figured out bulked up at 230lbs and was healthy.

Somebody planted that gun and no pot was found anywhere. UGA needs a new direction and some real leadership and discipline installed from top to bottom.

Maybe the football dormitory needs to return.

All these anti-SEC posts

August 2nd, 2012
5:22 pm

Surprised to see so-called SEC posters running down the 8 SEC teams UGA will face. Know the Techies and ACC fans like to do this, but am a little surprised that people are so quick to put down South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Auburn as “soft.”

ARdawg

August 2nd, 2012
5:25 pm

Dawg Haus

I’m anxious to see him too. The word is he’s got good hands too

i'm a big georgia fan

August 2nd, 2012
5:26 pm

Meanwhile, in Baton Rouge and Tuscaloosa, they have no worrires regarding the running backs or o-lines. Thats the way titles are won. Not with hugs, happy birthday singing, energy vampires, high diving board antics,or acc-finesse offenses.

Winning SEC is not "winning anything"

August 2nd, 2012
5:26 pm

In similar vein to 5:22 post, a surprising number of fans professing allegiance to an SEC team are constantly on here implying you have not won anything if you won the SEC. (See posts almost every day saying Georgia has not won anything since 1980).

This is one SEC fan that thinks winning an SEC football title trumps any other collegiate achievement outside of winning a football or men’s basketball NC.

ARdawg

August 2nd, 2012
5:30 pm

All these

Agreed. Memory’s are short on the blogs. It wasn’t that long ago the East was the beast in the SEC and it will be again. So much discounting FL, TN and UGA with a supposedly soft schedule. There’s nothing soft about it to those that know the game. It’s tough to win 8 SEC games in any year no matter which ones they are

MountainDawg

August 2nd, 2012
5:30 pm

Yes, Crowell had some talent, but was a bit overhyped. I’d much rather have an athletic RB w/ character too…like Nebraska’s Rex Burkhead.

Nick

August 2nd, 2012
5:31 pm

Wow thanks for the very first story about the running backs at UGA this year. Good work. How about something newsworthy that’s not been beaten to death already?

TampaGator

August 2nd, 2012
5:32 pm

If Georgia does not put together a solid offensive line quickly….it will not matter who plays RB….or QB for that matter. Georgia’s OL could be the thing that keeps them from winning the East this year. I would not want to be the Georgia LT lining up against Clowney if that LT does not have a lot of experience. Clowney was the best freshman in the SEC last year….by far. And he will probably be one of the best players in the country this year.

ARdawg

August 2nd, 2012
5:34 pm

IMHO, SC has been the benefactor of a down Eastern divison. Flash in the pan and the Old Bawl Sack won’t be able to maintain. TN and FL would rise again. Hopefully UGA is on the cusp

i'm a big georgia fan

August 2nd, 2012
5:34 pm

This is one SEC fan that thinks winning an SEC football title trumps any other collegiate achievement outside of winning a football or men’s basketball NC.

________________

and thinking like that is why CMR is still the Georgia head coach. Thinking like a loser. The crystal football is all that matters. Ask LSU.