ATHENS — I’m busy cobbling together some notes from this morning’s rain-soaked practice. But in order to hold you over I figured I’d just go ahead and share some of the observations of running backs coach Bryan McClendon with regard to a certain freshman tailback everybody seems to be expecting something from this season.
In a nutshell, McClendon — who recruited Crowell to UGA– believes that the five-star prospect out of Carver-Columbus High is finally back in his element. That is, working out and practicing football on a daily basis.
Following is a rough transcription of my conversation with Coach Mac that I’m attempting to get to you fast (so pleae take it easy on me, Typo Police):
UGA RUNNING BACKS COACH BRYAN MCCLENDON ON ISAIAH CROWELL:
How’s he doing?
“He’s doing a good job of studying; He’s doing a good job of learning it. That stuff comes pretty quick to him. And that happens when you have a guy that, one, wants to be as good as he wants to be; and, two, football is serious to that kid. He takes it very serious.”
On dealing with expectations and off-field stuff:
“I talk to him about it almost daily. What I tell him is he has to understand that he can’t do anything about that. He can’t do anything about what people write or what people expect of him. The only thing he can do is come here and want to be good and not worry about it and not sit here and say, ‘these people are expecting this and that from me.’ You can’t do anything about people’s expectations. The only thing you can do is focus on doing the best that you can do. I think that’s helped him out a bunch.”
“He’s just a great humble kid who wants to be good in football. And that’s what he’s doing. He’s doing everything he can to make sure he’s doing that.
What did you see in him that made you want to recruit him so hard?
“The biggest thing that I saw, I went to a practice, it may have been his sophomore year in high school, and I saw then how much he loved just to practice. He’s out there clapping and being excited about playing and having fun going out there and playing football. That’s one of the things that excited me the most, to see a guy that talented that didn’t take practice for granted. He goes out there and he wants to get better. He’s been the same way out here. He’s focusing on getting better, focusing on every rep. He’ll come to me and ask, ‘what can I do to get a little bit better. That was the biggest thing. I thought, this guy has what it takes to be something.”
What advice you giving?
“The one thing I tell him all the time is he can’t help what people outside his circle expect from him, what they want from him. He has to understand that everything he does, one, he’s doing it for the team, and two, he’s doing it for himself. And three, he’s wants to do something that’s going to make his family and God proud of him. I think thatj’s something he has to ask himself about in everything he does.”
What about dealing with notoriety?
“It’s going to be hard for that kid to pump gas without people knowing who he is and asking him something. It comes with the territory, so to speak. Now he’s just got to handle it.
Definitely, going from Columbus to here, it’s a whole new ballgame, as far as media and everything else you have to deal with. I think he’s handled it as well as he could have. And he’s done stuff he’s had to learn from and he has learned from it. There’s always going to be a growing process in that area.”
What have you seen from running back position in general?
“I definitely think we’ve got a chance to be every steady and very effective in the backfield, barring that we do anything to screw it up.”