Everybody in the world knows that Carver-Columbus running back Isaiah Crowell is Georgia’s No. 1 target for 2011. But what hasn’t been talked about much is this: What happens if the Bulldogs don’t get him?
That shake you just felt was the collective Bulldog Nation shuddering.
Few teams can match the momentum with which UGA has been closing out this recruiting season. The Bulldogs are 4-for-4 in landing their last four members of the so-called “Dream Team” in Damian Swann, Malcolm Mitchell, Jay Rome and Ray Drew.
But Crowell has kept UGA waiting. The nation’s No. 1-ranked tailback per Scout.com and ESPN, says he’ll pick between the Bulldogs and Alabama on Wednesday.
What, pray tell, if he chooses the Crimson Tide?
“It will be hard to call it a Dream Team if you miss on Crowell,” said Chad Simmons, South recruiting manager for Scout.com and FoxSports.com. “He’s been on the top of their board from the beginning. You have to feel good about them getting him because they haven’t haven’t seriously recruited anybody else at the position. On the other hand, if they don’t get him, then what are they going to do?”
The answer is, probably not sign a running back until 2012.
Meanwhile, it was a very good year in the state for running backs, and the Bulldogs had some flirtations with the best of them. But nothing of a serious nature.
The next best backs in the state are generally thought to be Marcus Caffey of Grady and Josh Clemons of Whitewater. Both are currently committed to Kentucky. Many have wondered if one or the other may represent a backup plan for the Dogs.
“As far as I know — and I’ve talked to Georgia and Mark Richt extensively — they haven’t even discussed Caffey,” said Grady coach Ronnie Millen. “I think they may have talked to Damian about him a little. But as far as I’m concerned he’s never really been on their radar.”
And that, Millen believes, might be a mistake.
“I haven’t seen Crowell play but I don’t know how anybody could be much better than my guy,” he said. “It may be one of those Jasper Sanks-Jamal Lewis things.”
In 1997, Georgia chose to focus all its recruiting efforts on landing running back Sanks out of Carver-Columbus over Lewis of Atlanta’s Douglass High. Lewis became an All-American and won a national championship with Tennessee before going on to an extended NFL career. Sanks was a serviceable SEC back but struggled with academics and discipline and never lived up to his lofty billing.
Caffey (6-0, 190) rushed for 1,611 yards and 18 touchdowns while rarely playing a full game for Grady (12-2) this past season. Swann, his teammate and best friend, is an AJC Super 11 defensive back and UGA commitment who expressed an interest in having Caffey come with him to Athens.
But after an early commitment to Purdue, Caffey reversed field and committed to Kentucky last month. He’ll sign with the Wildcats Wednesday morning at 8:45.
Clemons is also headed to the Bluegrass State. The 5-foot-10, 205-pound athlete was named the state’s Class AAAA offensive player of the year after rushing for 2,003 yards and 25 touchdowns.
“We sent some film to them and they even looked at him a little last year, but they never seemed that interested,” Whitewater coach Amos McCrary said of Georgia. “They had him down there a couple of times. But I think they’re on a certain person in Georgia and nobody else.”
Like Caffey, it’s doubtful Clemons would wait around to see what Georgia does. He, too, is scheduled to siGn at 8:45 in the morning. But, McCrary said, you can never be sure.
“There’s maybe a little speculation that could happen, but all indications are he’s going to sign with Kentucky,” McCrary said.
Georgia also offered scatback Quan Bray of Troup in this class and it had some flirtations with some of the top out-of-state running backs. The Dogs threw out token offers to Malcolm Brown and Aaron Green of Texas and Mike Bellamy, Shon Carson, James Wilder Jr., and Remi Watson of Florida.
But they never pursued any of them with the vigor they have Crowell. And the consensus is Georgia’s tunnel vision is justified.
Crowell (6-0, 190) is said to share the characteristics of South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore, the SEC’s reigning Freshman of the Year. Crowell rushed for 1,627 yards and 17 TDs despite missing four entire games with injuries and rarely playing past halftime in the other 10. Hence, he had a yards-per-carry average of more than 12.
Informed that Crowell is not going to announce his choice until 1:35 p.m. Wednesday (ESPNU), McCrary gasped.
“Whew! He must be pretty good to sit around and wait on him like that,” he said. “They’d be crazy not to have somebody out there in mind.”
“If they miss him they don’t sign a running back in 2011, in my opinion,” Simmons said. “That will leave them with Washaun Ealey, Carlton Thomas, Ken Malcome and Caleb King, and that’s fine. But who knows what will happen with Caleb King missing the bowl game and all that?
“But Georgia definitely believes in Isaiah Crowell and obviously they believe they’re going to get him. If Georgia does sign him, he’s going to be expected to produce.”
By Chip Towers, The College Recruiting Blog