ATHENS – Isaiah Crowell doesn’t know whether he will start at tailback in Georgia’s season opener against Boise State, but he probably won’t know what to do with himself if he doesn’t.
“I haven’t ever not started,” Crowell revealed Tuesday after practice.
And when he says ever, he means it.
The true freshman from Columbus said he started as a safety on defense in his first game as a 6-year-old little leaguer with the Eastway Cherokees. By Game 2, “Coach Buckner” (Crowell couldn’t recall his first name) came to his senses and moved Crowell to running back. And Crowell has been toting the rock with the first team ever since.
Of course, Georgia coach Mark Richt famously hinted on national signing day that Crowell could start his first game. “I wouldn’t be shocked to see him running that rock in the Dome against Boise State on the opening play if he does what he’s supposed to do,” Richt said last February.
At this point it seems likely that could happen. With just 10 days remaining before the Bulldogs face the No. 5-ranked Broncos in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta, Crowell is solidly the No.1 tailback. Never mind that it’s by default.
Last year’s leading rushers Washaun Ealey and Caleb King were unable to stay with the team and junior Carlton Thomas is suspended forf the opener. And as of Tuesday evening, converted tailback Richard Samuel is still slowed with a strained quadriceps muscle and Crowell the majority of snaps with the No. 1 unit ahead of Ken Malcome and Brandon Harton.
Nevertheless, Crowell insists he’s neither hopeful nor expectant when it comes to taking the first snap on offense on Sept. 3.
“Starting is not a big deal to me,” he said. “I just want to do whatever I can do to help my team win.”
At this point, Crowell’s significant contribution is a more of a need than a wish for the Bulldogs. And a first-year starter in a first game against a Top 10 opponent is problematic.
“He just hasn’t experienced enough of the situations that are going to come down the pipe,” Richt said. “Has he had a chance to see every blitz against every protection that he needs to understand? The answer is no. In theory, you take mental reps and try to give him as many situations as possible. We haven’t given him every single scenario yet. But before these next 10 days are over, we hope to make sure he’s got enough to feel comfortable.
“The good news is he’s picking up things quickly and he doesn’t shy away from any kind of contact.”
For his part, Crowell appears to be holding cool and steady. He said he gets nervous before games but not the “throw-up-in-the-trash-can” kind of nervous. And claims he is largely unconcerned with how he does in his first game.
“Doing whatever I can do, going 100 percent every play and helping my team win, that’s my goal,” Crowell said. “Really nothing about yards or touchdowns. I’d like to have a lot of yards or a lot of touchdowns. But if it doesn’t happen I just want my team to come out on top and win.”
Here’s a link to video of Crowell’s entire interview Tuesday at DawgTime.com.
Let the games begin
Georgia will take its first major step toward game preparation on Wednesday when it holds a “dress rehearsal practice game” at Sanford Stadium. Richt said the workout will be 90-95 percent scout work, with the No. 1 offense and defense going against scout teams simulating Boise State and a lot of scripted situations.
“We’ll play a half of football,”Richt said. “We’ll get our pregame ready, go into a coin toss and we’ll actually name captains by then.”
The Bulldogs have an ideal situation for simulating Boise State’s offense. Left-handed quarterback Michael Tamburo – a transfer from Boise State – will simulate the Broncos’ heralded, left-handed quarterback Kellen Moore.
Georgia practiced for only an hour Tuesday in shorts and helmets to rest up for Wednesday’s work.
Two new players were among the injured players dressed in green jerseys on Tuesday. Fullback Bruce Figgins was sidelined with “a pulled muscle” that Richt described as “not too serious.” Also, tailback Carlton Thomas, who is already out for the opener due to suspension, was sidelined to give a chronic ankle injury rest. . . . Starting split end Marlon Brown (ankle) and backup nose guard John Jenkins (hamstring) remained sidelined.
Samuel practiced in a green jersey but his mobility was clearly still affected as he ran and walked with a noticeable limp. . . . Freshman flanker Malcolm Mitchell (hip) was able to return to practice in a limited capacity but is expected to be close to full speed for Wednesday’s workout.