ATHENS - It's too soon to pronounce the issues at tailback as being over for the Georgia football team. Still this much is obvious: The group is in much better standing after spring practice than it was after last season.
Ken Malcome and Isaiah Crowell seem to be in the good graces, as evidenced not only by Saturday's spring game, but how head coach Mark Richt spoke about them afterwards.
Malcome got the start and the first few carries, and finished the game with a couple touchdowns. But Crowell also had some good moments, and his first carry - a 5-yard gain - was greeted with a warm ovation from the crowd.
That contrasted quite a bit from the boos he received in the SEC championship game, when he limped off the field.
"I heard them cheering, and I appreciate that," Crowell said. "I know that when you do stuff good they'll be on your side, and when you do stuff bad they won't be on your side. I understand that."
Prior to the spring, Crowell spoke of wanting to become dependable and accountable. He said he felt he did that, in addition to staying free of injury. He said he didn't miss so much as a snap of spring practice.
"I think I did very good - staying out on the field," Crowell said. "I know I had a lot of injuries last year. This spring I didn't get any injuries, so I think that was good too."
Malcome was healthy too, and seems to have a slight advantage over Crowell at the moment. But it's only a small one.
Richt was effusive in his praise of Malcome, and how far he's come since quitting the team for a day last year, upset with his playing time.
"I don't know for sure how he's gonna finish, but he's on a great track right now," Richt said. "It does my heart good to see guys that are struggling, that don't think they can make it, that maybe make a mistake that's foolish, and they just think it's over, you know? And they stick it out. They decide to do it the Georgia way. And then all of a sudden you see what they can do. ... He's really blossomed for us as a football player, as a student and as a person."
Richt was asked if Crowell was making those same strides. Richt said he was, then pointed to the fact that Crowell has had to mature in the public eye, given his profile when he came to Georgia.
"Isaiah is going through that process and probably more publicly than most guys, because he is who he is, and he came through high school with all the accolades," Richt said. "So everybody's kind of focusing on him when there's a bunch of guys going through. A lot of times they do it where not everybody's watching it so closely because they're not the No. 1 running back in the country coming out (of high school)."
Part of that attention is evident in the parody Twitter feed that makes fun of Crowell. The feed (@FakeIsaiahCrow1) has over 8,000 followers, and even Crowell said he's seen it.
"I think it's funny," Crowell said, laughing. "But I don't really get into it."
Meanwhile, Richard Samuel served notice on Saturday that he shouldn't be forgotten about in the running game. It may or may not be as a tailback.
"He could absolutely bring a good change of pace to our running game with the physicality he has. He has speed too of course," Richt said. "We feel like he can play the fullback position. He's smart enough to, he's willing to. And I just don't know how that thing's gonna shape up. ...
"When you have a fullback that's played tailback, it gives you a little bit more versatility in what you can call as well. So it'll be good."
- Richt said he liked some of the things he saw from Christian LeMay. But it was still clear that Hutson Mason, set to redshirt, would still get the call if it ever looked like Aaron Murray would be out an extended period of time.
"We haven't ever changed our thoughts on what we would like to do with Hutston this season," Richt said. "We definitely would like to be able to redshirt him if it at all season. But we've been telling him all along: You've got to prepare for this season as if you're gonna play. Because we just don't know what the offseason brings, we don't know what will happen early in the season as far as Murray. Football is a violent game, it's a very physical season, so he's gotta stay on the ready."