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 breaks loose for a 27-yard gain against Georgia Tech last season. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

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.

    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

264 comments Add your comment

Zoli

July 6th, 2011
12:58 pm

I am thinking Caleb will come out on fire with enough motivation to get it done. I would hate being a linebacker or a DB with Figgins bulldozing a hole. I think we will see our fair share of Boo knocking people out. Our running attack will open it up for Murray to light people up!

RxDawg

July 6th, 2011
12:58 pm

I too think King will really make his mark this year. Baring injury of course. This Dawg fan is not expecting Crowell to come in and be our savior. But I do expect him to make a few plays.

JayD

July 6th, 2011
1:00 pm

Caleb will be good – I’m not worried. I really think Georgia coaches should re-think the way the substitute @ the tailback position. Maybe give a guy a series or two, instead of shuffling them in and out the way they do – It keeps them (whoever is back there) from getting in any kind of rythm.

RxDawg

July 6th, 2011
1:00 pm

Lest some of you forget, Caleb King as a recruit was just as highly regarded as I. Crowell. That could be viewed as a good or bad thing so take it as you will.

LHarding Dawg

July 6th, 2011
1:01 pm

I believe losing Ealey is the best thing that could have happened to King. This is his year, he knows it, and if he is to play pro football, he needs it. Good luck to the kid. He could be our feel good story of the year.

JayD

July 6th, 2011
1:03 pm

I heard LT talk about using 3 or 4 carries to figure out who is blocking well on a particular day, or which lineman is getting beat or winning – These backs are never afforded that opportunity. They get a carry or 2 and take a seat – It doesn’t seem to work.

Spanky

July 6th, 2011
1:04 pm

O-Line, O-Line, O-Line…The wall needs to be solid for these backs to get going!

JayD

July 6th, 2011
1:05 pm

And for God’s sake – Stop running Thomas up the gut!! He is not Warrick Dunn

AltamahaDawg

July 6th, 2011
1:05 pm

The few plays I saw Figgins in the bowl game, he seemed to know exactly who he was assigned to, and promply leveled them.

On King, I didn’t see any hype in the article, just toned down realistic expectations. Now Crowell was hyped.

Trojan

July 6th, 2011
1:05 pm

I don’t believe that Bobo would effectly use Herchel. I am also tired of hearing about our backs blocking for pass protection. Establish the run, establish the run, establish the run.

C-Town

July 6th, 2011
1:14 pm

Crowell will be the Starter, going into the Tenn game. Crowell is tough as a $2 steak, and hits the hole hard, every single Rep..

Dallas

July 6th, 2011
1:15 pm

UGA has the worst RB Coach in the SEC. The untimely fumbles last year vs. Colorado, Miss St, and South Caro cost 3 games. UGA was also 10th in the SEC in rushing yards per game, and only eeked out a 100 yards rushing per game against teams with winning records. You need to be double that to win the SEC.

Add the thin as wafer O-Line and you have a recipe for disaster, as no RB on the team scored more than 2 td’s for UGA last year.

DawginLex

July 6th, 2011
1:15 pm

We haven’t had a feature back since Musa. Even Knowshon was in and out of the game and wasn’t exactly a pounder.

Give me a Verron Haynes type like against Tech in Richt’s first year.

If King has his head on straight and is ready to quit the crap, he can be a good serviceable back. Crowell can be his backup and Malcome can provide depth.

Forget about Carlton Thomas as he is undersized and fumbles a lot.

Richt needs to take back the playcalling(which he won’t do) and let Bobo concentrate on Murray’s development(which Bobo is really good at).

securtiy dawg

July 6th, 2011
1:15 pm

I want to be fair to all, UGA came hard after BOO and TJ when they were both a SWD/ now I feel it’s time to get our own 3 headed monster in the backfield. No 1 every complains about the back field being crowded unless we are losing…. Let King start, Boo back up/and (slowly) bring Mr. Crowell up to speed/ if we do it this way we still can dapp in a DASH of Carlton also/everybody gets the rock/we keep injuries to miniumum and we Scare the He$k out of every1 from the CHICKENS to Swamp”meat” to buzzzzzzin bugs of North Ave.

AltamahaDawg

July 6th, 2011
1:17 pm

I see a few gold clad fans in that picture.

Dallas

July 6th, 2011
1:17 pm

Richt’s 2 best years, 2002 & 2007, Rixcht has a RB gert 200+ carries and 1000+ yards. Richt’s only 2 wins vs. Fla he got a 100 yard rushing effort from an RB. Richt’s record is 33-4 when he has a 100 yard rsher, but rarely happens as Richt rotates in lousy unproductive backs or gives 7-8 carries a game to Murray, who averages under 2 yards per carry.

Dallas

July 6th, 2011
1:19 pm

If Crowell starts, Murray will be very vulnerable to a seaosn ending injury, especially against South Carolina’s dominating D-Line. If Caleb starts, he’s likely to fumble and can’t score.

PMC

July 6th, 2011
1:21 pm

Whomever it is, they had better be good at picking up rushers on pass plays.

Dallas

July 6th, 2011
1:26 pm

More competition, Richt’s platoon RB 5 man rotation, led to finishing almost last in the SEC in rushing vs. winning teams, @100 yards per gasme, pathetic.

more comeptition, rotating with unproductive backs, helps no one except the opposing team.

schmeckdawg

July 6th, 2011
1:27 pm

If the O-Line doesn’t block, none of this makes a damn bit of difference and it will be another long, miserable year!

Dallas

July 6th, 2011
1:29 pm

Chip,

Ealey didn’t have a negative effect on the team.

Richt never lost a game when he gave Ealey 20 carries or when Ealey got 100 yards rushing in a game.

Ealey was the ONLY playmaker on the team that could CARRY the team.

Dallas

July 6th, 2011
1:30 pm

King had 2 td’s, Ealey 11.

Uh yeah, UGA will miss Ealeyu’s 11 td production, and King’s 2 td’s a year won’t help win games.

Benedict's Ghost

July 6th, 2011
1:33 pm

CHIP… there is no doubt the running backs should be better. And I realize you are doing position-by-position analysis. But the success of this position is directly related to the ability for the OL to stay healthy. How in the world, with eight players, can we really expect the OL to do what needs to be done for Crowell to be successful? Dallas Lee and Austin Long couldn’t even participate in spring. Plus, Bean Anderson has been a waste of flesh so far at UGA. And Chris Burnette hasn’t even played before. So we can get all excited about the running backs, but if this OL sucks, the running game will be non-existent. What a shame that when the Bulldogs need a healthy OL to protect a potential star, the World Vision ambassador is too damn busy elsewhere to make sure his OL is not such a big question mark.

Tossed Salad

July 6th, 2011
1:39 pm

Not going to miss Ealey’s patented ability to fumble at the absolute most inopportune moments.

bulldogmaniac

July 6th, 2011
1:39 pm

I will try this again! Maybe the AJC will actually let my post appear instead of deleting it for pointing out their moranic ways.
This rant is totally off topic but……. Why in the world did the AJC see the need for posting a story about a guy in Florida getting punched in the face for commenting on a UGA shirt IN THE SPORTS SECTION???? How is this SPORTS NEWS? I would say that it should have been posted in the police / arrest section but it shouldnt even be posted there. Why do they find it necessarry to try to print anything that they feel would be viewed in a negative way about UGA? (Not that this is anyway)

BG

July 6th, 2011
1:42 pm

King and Crowell will be a great combo!

Dr. Dave

July 6th, 2011
1:42 pm

Hey Dallas, Ealey did not have an effect on the team? The fumbles in key situations near the goal line were not an effect. The crummy attitude about practices was not an effect? This is no doubt that he could have become a big-time back if he had kept his head on straight and learned to hold onto the ball.

bulldogmaniac

July 6th, 2011
1:44 pm

Back on topic…..Our backfield will be MUCH better this year.
Trust me when I tell you that Crowell will be the real deal. I really dont want him starting from day 1 as he needs to learn and master all of the protections and blocking assignments before he is handed the reigns but this guy can flat out play! The King / Crowell combo will be much better than the Ealy King combo.
King is hungry to prove that he is a good RB and Crowell is going to be giving is all to win the job. They will make each other better.

toggle names

July 6th, 2011
1:45 pm

Chip:

Ealey will be missed, but if 3 backs can produce 50-60 yards per game each, we should be fine. Richt can use Crowell at this point, but he can’t rely on him. Same with King…too much inconsistancy though. So we need these guys to go out there for 8-10 plays and have some big runs. If we can do that, defense and passing will win 10 games for us.

Can you remove the ban on me now please? — astrouga

Tech fan hiding?

July 6th, 2011
1:45 pm

Dallas aren’t you Judd on the other blog?

RabidDawgFan

July 6th, 2011
1:47 pm

King will rush for 1,000 yards this season.

DawginLex

July 6th, 2011
1:48 pm

Dallas

So this is your name today?

How creative.

Before it was Judd.

You change it every day.

Your stats are worthless.

Ealey had 11 TD’s but 5 of them were against Kentucky and all of them were short yardage runs that any of the fullbacks or running backs could have made.

That cuts him down to 6.

I guarantee you that Caleb king will get more than 6 TD’s ths year as the starter. Plus he won’t be the team cancers that Ealey,Mett,Gray and Houston were.

Joe T won’t let slackers and all about me people get by anymore. That’s why Ealey left. That’s why Benedict left.

They quit.

KCDawg

July 6th, 2011
1:48 pm

It’s good to see that Crowell can catch, too! I think King will be a serviceable back this year if we don’t run into academic issues like last year. Crowell will keep King focused as I do think Crowell will play early in the season, possibly USC the way I see it.

The thing that still worries me is our O line… incredibly thin.

GT Fan

July 6th, 2011
1:50 pm

RB Success without an Oline? No way.

GaDawg

July 6th, 2011
1:51 pm

Hey Dal-las, Ealey’s the back that made all the Fumbles you were talking about in your previous post, so What’s your point?

bulldogmaniac

July 6th, 2011
1:51 pm

and Crowell will add another 700 plus 250 rec.

bulldogmaniac

July 6th, 2011
1:53 pm

HAHAHAHAHAHAH! GT Fan talking about success! We will have a better record than GT and beat you AGAIN! WE OWN THIS STATE!

DawginLex

July 6th, 2011
1:56 pm

Ealey vs florida 33 yards and 1 short TD run
Ealey vs Auburn 47 yards and 1 short TD run

That’s 2 more plus the 5 against UK = 7 of his 11 TD’s were short runs that the fullbacks could have made. Plus they don’t fumble in critical situations like Ealey did.

Ealey=All About Me=Cancer=Good riddance

Addition by subtraction

Ace

July 6th, 2011
1:56 pm

Posting the rushing stats of a pro style offense is the stupidest stat I have ever seen.Man that McElroy from Bama averaged -1.6 yards per rush.

Tom

July 6th, 2011
1:57 pm

The winner will be whichever one can stay eligible and out of jail.

Ok, maybe just out of jail.

Ace

July 6th, 2011
1:57 pm

sorry of a qb in a pro style offens

bulldogmaniac

July 6th, 2011
1:57 pm

dawginlex – I couldnt agree more! Addition by subtraction for sure. Not to mention that Crowell will be twice the back as Ealy ever was. We are set at RB.

bulldogmaniac

July 6th, 2011
1:59 pm

ahhh, Ace.
Please translate.

Ace

July 6th, 2011
1:59 pm

Posting the rushing stats of a QB in a pro style offense is the stupidest stat I have ever seen.Man that McElroy from Bama averaged -1.6 yards per rush.

DawginLex

July 6th, 2011
1:59 pm

grandpa

July 6th, 2011
2:02 pm

If Caleb can play the Thomas Brown to Crowell’s Moreno than we should be fine. If he plays the Patrick Pass to Crowell’s Sanks then we may be in trouble.

Ace

July 6th, 2011
2:03 pm

John Brantley average -4 yards per carry at Florida.

mgdawg

July 6th, 2011
2:05 pm

Although I would love to see king come out and have a big season, I just can’t see it happening. I haven’t seen him do it since he’s been at UGA, and I can’t see how this year will be any different. As far as the lack of experience with the departure of the fullbacks, I don’t see that as necessarily a bad thing. UGA fullbacks in the past have been able to get the offense that critical one yard when they needed, chapas and munz never proved to have that ability and maybe figgins or ogletree will. Hopefully Crowell will step up as a homerun threat and malcome will step up and be the pounder.

JDawg1785

July 6th, 2011
2:08 pm

King could prove to have a decent season and put up some decent numbers if he has indeed straightened things out in his personal life. The guy has great potential to be a leader both on and off the field, not to mention a mentor to Crowell, who is in the exact same shoes as King was when he first arrived on campus.

Go get ‘em, Caleb!

Ca dawg

July 6th, 2011
2:08 pm

People keep saying that king can’t find the end zone, but he scored 7 td in 2009 while splitting carries w/ ealey and playing w a broken jaw. He’s a good back; if he stays healthy we’ll be fine.