Former Carver star Isaiah Crowell started slow in his new role as the Alabama State running back in 2012, but coach Reggie Barlow thinks the junior is ready to take the next step this season.
Speaking on Saturday at the school's Coaches Caravan at the Double Tree Hotel in Columbus, Barlow praised Crowell's progress on and off the field, noting his size, vision and maturity as reasons for the high expectations.
"When he left Georgia, he wasn't in the best shape because he wasn't in their offseason program," Barlow said. "Toward the end of (last season), we started to see why he was the No. 1 running back in the nation. Very explosive, very powerful, elusive, strong, great vision, and he showed us all that stuff as the season went on."
Barlow said that Crowell was up to 220-plus pounds in the spring, with the weight being distributed in a good way.
"Just talking with Isaiah, he feels really good when he's in that 218-to-220-pound range," Barlow said. "His weight is put on the right way. It's distributed well. I think the weight he's at now, that 220-range, I think that's good."
Crowell showed flashes of brilliance as a true freshman with the University of Georgia in 2011, rushing for 850 yards and five touchdowns en route to being named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year. He followed that up with 842 yards and 15 touchdowns last season with the Hornets after legal troubles led to his dismissal at Georgia.
"You're talking about the total package running back," Barlow said. "He actually has it all. He has the size. His vision is outstanding. He can go the distance. He's very fast and he also catches the ball well and protects well. The sky's the limit.
"When they name you the SEC freshman of the year, that's saying a lot. I'm just proud of his maturity and the way he's adapted to being here at ASU."
Maturity, of course, was a major question following Crowell's unceremonious exit from the Bulldogs football team. The running back was charged with two felonies and a misdemeanor, including criminal use of an article with an altered ID mark and carrying a weapon within school safety zones following and arrest on June 29, 2012.
Those charges were dropped in April 2013, and Barlow said Crowell has moved on and is growing up on and off the field.
"Ever since Isaiah was in high school, he's had that light on him because of his ability," Barlow said. "Going to Georgia and being 18 or 19 years old and having that spotlight is tough. That stuff is behind him now, and he's stepped up. He's been outspoken with the running backs, doing all the extra stuff he needs to. It's been very encouraging.
"He obviously has a future beyond college. With his maturity and with him doing well and being a team guy, it'll only help his chances at the next level."
Barlow said Crowell was in town on Saturday, but was unable to make it to the Caravan event.
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports.