Kevin Price commentary on Georgia football: Bulldogs' tailback depth takes a beating

kprice@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 20, 2011 

It has taken only five months for the look of the Georgia tailback position to go from bloated to downright skinny.

On Feb. 2, at a ceremony that included a Bulldog puppy here in Columbus, Carver running back Isaiah Crowell signed to play for the Bulldogs.

Even before he signed, Georgia coach Mark Richt had made no secret of his belief that Crowell is good enough to be in the starting lineup when the Dogs play Boise State in the Georgia Dome on the night of Sept. 3.

Only Richt knows if he was saying that because he actually believed it, to ensure that Crowell signed with the Dogs and not Alabama or to light a fire under a pair of underachievers in Caleb King and Waushaun Ealey, two running backs already on the Georgia roster at the time.

It may have been a combination of all three.

But flash forward five months to mid-July, and Crowell may well earn the starting nod simply by staying healthy during summer workouts and then during preseason practice. That’s not to say Crowell won’t earn his way with his performance, but look at what has happened since he signed with Georgia:

Ealey decided to transfer in May, ending up at Jacksonville State.

Ealey had been suspended twice in just a matter of months. He was suspended for the season-opener last season after he hit a parked car and left the scene. He also was driving on a suspended license. Then he was suspended again in February for breaking a team rule.

Georgia issued a news release terming his departure a mutual decision. But it is not hard to read between the lines and realize that Ealey had worn out his welcome in Athens.

King was ruled academically ineligible for the fall semester this month. Since he was going to be a senior this fall, that ended his career at Georgia. He was also a problem off the field as he was arrested last October after failing to appear in court on a speeding charge.

King has announced that he will enter the NFL’s supplemental draft.

While Ealey and King brought plenty of headaches to Richt, they also accounted for over 1,300 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns last season.

Now, news came Monday that another running back, this one Carlton Thomas, will be forced to sit out the Boise State game, according to multiple media reports. He apparently violated a team rule in the spring.

Thomas is not someone who is going to battle for the starting tailback role, but the loss of another player further complicates matters for the Dogs.

Richt and Georgia’s offense now must hope that Crowell’s talents, which are considerable, will translate into success on the biggest stage in college football.

Crowell rushed for more than 1,700 yards as a senior at Carver last season, and that was with his coach, Dell McGee, holding him out of a couple of games with minor injuries to his legs.

Georgia moved Richard Samuel back to running back from linebacker this month before the announcement was made about King. But it’s likely Georgia already knew that King would not be an option for the upcoming season.

Samuel played tailback his first two seasons at UGA, rushing for 133 yards in 2008 and 395 in ’09.

Georgia’s only other option will be Ken Malcome, who will be a redshirt freshman this fall. He rushed for almost 1,200 yards and scored 16 touchdowns as a senior at Southwest DeKalb High.

For a team that needs to get off to a good start after a miserable 6-7 season in 2010, a depth chart of Crowell, Samuel and Malcome -- in whatever order -- cannot be a good feeling for the Bulldogs.

Kevin Price, kprice@ledger-enquirer.com, 706-320-4493

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