ATHENS, Ga. -- This time last year, Isaiah Crowell was a few days from announcing he would play at Georgia -- a few days away from hoisting an English bulldog puppy at his signing ceremony, thus becoming the new favorite of Georgia fans.
Back then, Crowell was supposed to be the savior for Georgia’s struggling offense. He was the antidote to the off-field problems that had plagued the program’s tailbacks.
One year later, however, Crowell is in danger of being an afterthought.
Georgia has recruited two more high-profile tailbacks, Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley.
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Crowell had a star-crossed freshman season: SEC Freshman of the Year and Georgia’s leading rusher but two suspensions and numerous injuries. That’s part of the reason Marshall is expected to play right away and perhaps even start.
Dell McGee, who coached Crowell at Carver High, said his former player shouldn’t be surprised by the competition.
“We’ve had that conversation before he even got recruited by any school, that going to college as a running back is a position that schools that were in the running to get Isaiah, they were going to recruit the best backs that are available,” McGee said Friday. “That’s just a part of being a running back in the SEC. He understood that as a junior in high school.”
So McGee shrugs off the idea that the presence of Marshall and Gurley automatically will push Crowell. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t expect Crowell to mature.
“I’ve heard positive reports,” said McGee, who periodically checks in with Georgia coaches to check on all of his former players. “The biggest thing is he has to take care of his body and understand going to treatment, maximizing his effort in the weight room, just doing daily what’s necessary to take care of his body. I’m sure those coaches and that training staff at Georgia will have their way of communicating that to Isaiah.”
Staying healthy is the key, according to McGee. He noted games last year, specifically South Carolina and Mississippi, when Crowell had a big impact.
“When he’s healthy, he’s the player that everyone expects him to be,” McGee said. “He got some nicks. In that league, you definitely have to play with the nicks and the bruises. You’re not going to be 100 percent. That’s where I think signing those other running backs will help the team.”
There has been speculation about Crowell’s future at Georgia. But McGee said he has not received one call from another school inquiring about Crowell, and he didn’t detect from the player himself that he was unhappy at Georgia.
McGee just thinks Crowell will have to adjust to life in the spotlight, the kind of attention that comes with being a high-profile recruit.
“Everything you do on and off the field is going to be magnified a thousand times, true or not true,” said McGee, who played cornerback at Kendrick High and Auburn. “I don’t know of any of these rumors, but it just comes with that territory. Isaiah’s just got to understand that everybody’s watching what he does. I guess body language can be misconstrued. And it can be put out from that person’s perspective. That’s where social media has gotten us. And it’s part of our everyday life now.”