ATHENS - This is part of our countdown to the 10 most important players for Georgia’s season in 2012. A reminder: This is not a list of the team’s 10 best players. That list would look much different. This list takes into account where Georgia has concerns and weaknesses. It takes into account depth.
(As in, players that would be really missed if they can’t play.) We cannot predict players having unexpectedly bad years, or come out of nowhere, or injuries.
A good way to look at it is this way: If Georgia is going to win big this year, it is important that these players, in this order, have a good year.
No. 10 was sophomore safety Corey Moore, and you can read why he’s important here.
Next on the list is another sophomore, and a very familiar one.
WHY HE'S VITAL: Some may say that Crowell should be higher on this list. After all, isn’t tailback a key spot for Georgia, and an unsettled one? How are there eight more important players than the mercurial tailback from Columbus? The reason is simple: Georgia now has insurance, by signing Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley. And Ken Malcome and Richard Samuel are also still around. So the pressure is more on Crowell, and the weight of expectations on Crowell is less than his rookie year. But Crowell remains critical to Georgia’s season because he has the most upside of all the tailbacks, at least for 2012. Some would argue that Marshall or perhaps Gurley could be better long-term than Crowell. But Crowell has a year of experience on them. So for 2012, it would seem Georgia’s best bet to be successful at tailback is for Crowell to stay healthy, stay on the field, and to be the player he was for the first half of the 2011 season.
QUOTABLE: "My first goal is to be a good teammate, help my team get to the national championship. My second goal, I'm trying to run for the Heisman." – Crowell, on the first day of spring practice.
BEST CASE: Crowell wins the Heisman. OK, maybe that’s a stretch. But the fact he can say that and it doesn’t seem completely laughable shows that big things are still possible for the sophomore. The best case for Crowell is that he shows a certain durability – and the team is hoping a full offseason of workouts will do that. If he can stay on the field, few around the program doubt that he can be a complete threat, running between and outside the tackles, and helping out in the passing game. He still figures to share carries in the crowded backfield, but a healthy Crowell is capable of being a 1,000-yard back and all-SEC contender.
WORST CASE: The injuries and discipline issues rear their head again. While he shows flashes, Crowell can’t stay on the field long enough to hold the tailback job, and gets lost in the shuffle behind Malcome and the two freshmen.
FINAL WORD: The weight of expectations on Crowell last year was probably unfair, but the team and the tailback knew that going in. On this list, Crowell may have been No. 1 entering 2011. Perhaps the fact there are less expectations entering 2012 will help him.
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Next up: Tomorrow, we write about a freshman at a critical spot, who comes in No. 8 in our ranking.