The running back is the most important position for a football team. Even if you have a good passing game, or if the passing game is the feature of the offense, you’ve got to have a decent running game.
Those teams that don’t are usually not very successful. Look at the Georgia Bulldogs this year. They finished 6-6, which is about as mediocre as you can get. And a big reason was the lackluster running game.
Washaun Ealey led Georgia with 751 rushing yards this season, which put him 10th-best in the SEC. That was not awful, but we all know the lack of a big-play threat in the backfield was a problem for Georgia.
Sure, the Bulldogs offensive line was terribly disappointing. And even though the offense was productive statistically, we all know against a good defense this team would have trouble because Ealey and Caleb King are just not outstanding backs.
Ealey has led UGA the past two seasons with 1,468 rushing yards. That’s only 54 more yards than Knowshon Moreno had to lead Georgia in 2008. Moreno was a big-play back, and that’s what Georgia is now lacking.
Look at South Carolina. Steve Spurrier has looked every year for a big-time running back. He has had Mike Davis, Cory Boyd, and Kenny Miles -- all decent running backs. But they weren’t special, and that was a major reason Spurrier was only 35-28 in his first five years with the Gamecocks.
But then, last February, Spurrier signed Marcus Lattimore, considered one of the best high school backs in the country. Lattimore has run for 1,114 yards this season, second-most in the SEC. That pretty much explains why Spurrier’s team was 9-3 this year and will play in its first SEC title game Saturday.
For all quarterback Cam Newton did to turn Auburn around, you can’t discount the contribution of freshman running back Michael Dyer. He ran for 866 yards, ninth-most in the conference.
And while Ryan Mallet gets all the love for leading Arkansas to a 10-2 record, don’t forget about sophomore running back Knile Davis, who ran for 1,183 yards to complement what Mallet did for the offense.
Florida’s troubles on offense also could be traced to its troubles at running back. Jeff Demps led the Gators with only 531 rushing yards this season. Yes, the offense is a bit different. But wouldn’t a big-time running back have made a difference?
If Mark Richt is to get off the hot seat in Athens, he is going to have to find a running back before Georgia opens the season against Boise State next September.
Again, Ealey and King are just OK. If this program is to get back to near a 10-win season, they’ve got to get somebody better. That somebody who is most coveted is Carver’s Isaiah Crowell. He is one of the top running backs in the country, and some are even saying he is the best back out of Georgia in the past decade.
Georgia desperately needs Crowell. If he decides to go to Alabama, we may see coaches jumping off the Butts-Mehre Building in agony. He is that important to determine whether Richt and his coaches are going to stick around for the long term.
And they better have a backup plan if Crowell does head elsewhere. They can’t afford to go with what they had this year. If last year’s running back signee, Ken Malcome, was really good, he would have played this season as a freshman.
We saw what Lattimore has done for South Carolina as a freshman, and the Bulldogs need the same type of contribution from Crowell. With wide receiver A.J. Green probably leaving for the NFL, Georgia will need a serious threat on offense. Crowell fits that bill.
He immediately could turn around the Bulldogs. Sure, they need to get better on defense, and, regardless of who is running the ball, the offensive line must improve as well. But if Georgia is to bounce back next season, they’ve got to have Crowell (or someone as highly-rated) come right in and play.
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