Georgia wanted Isaiah Crowell so much it committed a secondary violation to get him. It had 10 incumbent Bulldogs array themselves, in uniform, in an offensive set, and it had Crowell, who was on a recruiting visit, take his place in the backfield. This, Georgia was saying, is where you can be next season. (It was also a breach of byzantine NCAA rules.)
And, at least for part of the time, that’s where Crowell has been this season — ensconced as Georgia’s No. 1 tailback. He leads the team in rushing and has had three 100-yard games. He has also gone missing during games so often we’ve all taken to wondering what’s really going on. Is he taking himself out of the game because he’s tired? Does he get injured that often? Are the coaches holding him back? If so, why?
After Crowell didn’t play in the first quarter against Vanderbilt, Mark Richt told a halftime interviewer the freshman had been withheld “because we love him.” (”Undisclosed disciplinary reasons” were the real explanation, apparently.) On Tuesday, after Richt’s regular media briefing had concluded, Georgia announced that Crowell was one of three tailbacks — third-stringer Carlton Thomas and Ken Malcome are the other two — who have been suspended for Saturday’s game against New Mexico State. No specific reason was given.
Thus will the Bulldogs be minus four tailbacks Saturday: Richard Samuel was hurt against Florida and has undergone ankle surgery that will sideline him for the rest of the regular season. But the greater issue is Crowell, of whom so much was expected. To be fair, he has come close to justifying the massive hype that preceded him, but the stop-and-start nature of his season — now you see him; now you don’t — has led some to wonder if he’ll be a Bulldog long.
Some cast Isaiah Crowell as the recruit who was going to save Richt’s job, and clearly the freshman has done his part to lift the Bulldogs to 6-2 and second place in the SEC East. But there have been warning signs over those eight games that make us ask: Will the “missing man” turn out to be more trouble than he’s worth?
By Mark Bradley