Man, it’s got to be tough to be Washaun Ealey right now.
This time last year a lot of folks were predicting the Georgia tailback was going crack the 1,000-yard mark in the 2010 season and give the Dogs a potent running attack that would allow them to bring their untested quarterback along slowly.
As it turned out, the QB scrambling was more of a running threat than the tailback position much of the time. And while Ealey did lead the team, running for 811 yards and 11 touchdowns, he started out the season missing a game because he’d been driving with a suspended license (something his coaches had warned him about), fumbled at key times in losses and developed the reputation of spending more time running his mouth than the ball. Georgia’s running game ended up ranking 10th in the conference.
Then, just as Georgia was signing Isaiah Crowell, who looks to be the next great SEC running back, Ealey got suspended from the team for skipping a punishment run, and then had to sit out most of spring practice with a hamstring injury.
And now, as our Chip Towers reported, Ealey has been put on notice by his head coach that he’s still sharing Russ’ doghouse.
Asked about Ealey at the Greater Augusta Bulldog Club spring meeting Wednesday night, Richt was uncharacteristically blunt.
“Washaun has a ways to go still to show me that he deserves to start or even play right now,” the coach said. “He has a ways to go in my book. We’ll see. I love him, though.”
Richt’s tough love got even tougher for Ealey, though, as the Leather Helmet Blog points out. Responding to a question about true freshman Crowell being prepared to block in the SEC, Richt talked about just how important blocking is for a back and hung Ealey out to dry again, noting that when Georgia was trying to come back against Arkansas last season, the drive faltered because “the back decided he wasn’t going to block on that play.”
It will be interesting to see how the rising junior responds to this very public back of the hand from Richt, who generally is known for building his players up. Most times, coaches deal with problem players in the relative privacy of the locker room or closed practices, but Richt apparently has decided that’s not working with Ealey, so he’s called him out.
I’m as excited as any Dog fan about the impending arrival of Crowell. But Georgia is going to need more than one effective tailback in order to have a successful season. It’s possible the oft-injured Caleb King can fill that role. Or maybe tough-running but inexperienced Ken Malcome.
But the back on the roster who, on paper, seems to be best equipped to give the Dogs a one-two punch at running back is Ealey.
The question is whether he can overcome the biggest obstacle — himself.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg