Running backs: Competition between Caleb King, Isaiah Crowell should translate into success
UPDATE: CALEB KING LOST HIS ACADEMIC ELIGIBILITY ON JULY 8, 2011
Fourth in a series breaking down Georgia’s 2011 football team by position groups. . . .
Georgia tailback Caleb King, here breaking loose for a 27-yard gain against Georgia Tech last season, brings knowledge and experience to the table. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)
THE RUNNING BACKS
- Returning starters: TB Caleb King (Sr., 5-11, 224)
- Others to watch: Isaiah Crowell (5-11, 210) is the most anticipated freshman running back Georgia has had since fellow Columbus resident Jasper Sanks showed up in Athens in the late 1990s. Crowell will be in an all-out competition with King for playing time, but Carlton Thomas, Ken “Boo” Malcome and sophomore walk-on Brandon Harton will be looking to get into the mix. . . . Meanwhile, the Bulldogs will be breaking in a new starter at fullback for the first time in four seasons in converted tight end Bruce Figgins or sophomore Zander Ogletree.
- Key losses: Georgia lost its leading rusher from 2010 with the abrupt departure of junior Washaun Ealey after spring practice. Ealey and coach Mark Richt “mutually agreed” they’d each be better off if Ealey transferred. Ealey, who started seven games — King started five — and rushed for 811 yards and 11 TDs with the Bulldogs last season, ended up at Jacksonville State, a Football Championship Subdivision school for whom he’ll be immediately eligible to play. . . . Georgia lost a ton of experience at fullback with the graduations of three-year starter Shaun Chapas and backup Fred Munzenmaier.
It's Isaiah Crowell's breakaway ability that had recruiters salivating. Among his long-distance scampers was a 90-yard TD run against eventual state champion Buford.
Key fact: For all the fan criticism and off-field disciplinary issues, King has actually been a fairly solid SEC back. He has averaged 5.0 yards per carry in his career with that average creeping up in each of his three seasons to 5.4 last year. He has also mastered the playbook and the critical criteria of Georgia backs to be able to effectively pass block, particularly in blitzing situations. The only area where he remains unproven is as a consistent “home run” threat.
- Key questions: Will this be Crowell’s year or King’s year? Everybody wants to discover the next big thing, and there is certainly evidence that Crowell could be that for the Bulldogs in 2011. Crowell had an incredible 11.7 yards per carry average at Carver (1,721 yards, 147 carries, 18 TDs), including multiple TDs runs of 50 or more yards. So he would appear to bring big-play capability to the table. But, early on at least, as Georgia faces a pair of top 10 opponents in Boise State and South Carolina in the season’s opening weeks, King is the one who should know every assignment and will need to fill the role of “Mr. Dependable.”
- Recent developments: Figgins’ move from tight end to fullback can’t be over-emphasized. For the first time in Richt’s 11-year tenure the Bulldogs are coming into the season without a proven commodity at fullback. Ogletree was recruited to play the position and projects as a capable every-down player eventually. But the 6-4, 265-pound Figgins’ willingness to move from a position at which he once was a starter into the backfield gives Georgia a legitimate jumbo presence with blocking and pass-catching skills. Walk-on Dustin Royston (5-11, 242) will be a factor as well.
- Outlook: Pretty good. Losing Ealey has to hurt from a production standpoint but his absence also eliminates a negative element and clears the way for hearty competition between multiple and varied talents. Should be an entertaining horse race all season.
- Your turn: What say you about the running backs?
PREVIOUS POSITION BREAKDOWNS:
July 5 — Tight ends
July 2 — Wide receivers
July 1 — Offensive line