Caleb King Reportedly Academically Ineligible, Georgia Bulldogs Doomed

When it rains, it pours . . . literally. After posting a fanshot on the CBS report that Caleb King will be academically ineligible for the 2011 college football season and setting up the corresponding open comment thread, I set about packing the car for the trip home from Sarasota, at which point the weather went absolutely haywire . . . again.

Last night, at about 4:00 a.m., a storm blew through that pushed around the porch furniture at the place we are staying. When we went out to the beach this morning, the seas were choppy, the tide was high, and the wind pelted us with stinging sand in an Old Testament "Let my people go!" sort of way. When we tried again this afternoon, as my wife went out with the kids and I went to load the car, the wind kicked up, the bottom fell out, and we were driven back to our room, where I now am, thereby affording me time to address this latest mess.

Maybe it’s just me---actually, I know it isn’t---but I’m starting to think this is a sign.

In an offseason featuring only a couple of questions and no actual incidents, the Georgia Bulldogs had appeared to be leading, if not a charmed existence, at least one that was going well enough to offer cause for optimism. The newfound Era of Good Feelings got so out of hand that it had to be stamped down . . . twice . . . lest we be overtaken by a level of hope that the powers that be over college football could not have interpreted as anything other than hubris, the character trait that appears in the first acts of Greek plays whose second acts end unhappily.

Surely, it surprised no one that, when the shoe dropped, it was Caleb King who dropped it. It was, after all, King (no relation) who was the most recent previous player to be arrested, and King who got himself into hot water academically before the Liberty Bowl, and King who fumbled it all away against Colorado (literally) the way he now appears to have fumbled it all away at Georgia (figuratively). That the literal fumble occurred while we were gathered together for the First Annual Dawg Sports Sacrificial Goat Roast appears approximately as coincidental as the inclement weather now buffeting my vacation destination; which is to say, not at all.

What, then, is there to say about Caleb King that was not already said when Washaun Ealey saw his Classic City career come to a similar end for essentially identical reasons? Both players’ seasons spent in silver britches showcased maddening blends of partially realized potential, unmet expectations, dazzling performances, and boneheaded moves, both on and off the gridiron.

King came out of high school as Rivals.com’s No. 1 player in the Peach State and as Scout.com’s No. 4 tailback in the country. In his Sanford Stadium debut against Georgia Southern in 2008, he rushed for a team-high 95 yards on a dozen carries. He came back from a fractured jaw to score two touchdowns at Vanderbilt in 2009 before capping off his second season with a 166-yard performance at Georgia Tech and another two-TD day against Texas A&M in the Independence Bowl. His aforementioned fumble in Boulder overshadowed a twelve-carry, 100-yard effort against the Buffaloes.

King averaged five yards per carry over the course of his three-year career, improving from 4.0 yards per attempt as a redshirt freshman to 5.2 as a sophomore to 5.4 as a junior. Nevertheless, after scampering 75 yards to confirm that the Bulldogs’ first half against the Yellow Jackets had been no fluke in 2009, King failed to cover as much as a third of a football field on a single run from scrimmage in 2010. His career numbers---ten starts, 1,271 yards, ten touchdowns---look more like the sorts of statistics we were expecting from him for a season.

Had Ealey not preceded him out the door, King’s departure from Athens might have met with much the same "meh" reaction that accompanied his teammate’s transfer, but Bulldog Nation cannot afford to be blasé about bidding farewell to the Red and Black’s last remaining running back with experience as anything other than a utility player. Georgia now enters 2011 in the same situation at tailback as on the offensive line and in the secondary: talented, yet paper-thin.

The best face it is possible to put on the loss of yet another underachieving tailback who fell short due to his own lack of effort is this: the ongoing elimination of anything resembling a margin for error for this team virtually ensures that "The Dream Team" will have ample opportunity to contribute. If the incoming signees are mentally prepared to make the most of their physical gifts, that vacuum exists which nature abhors and they are free to fill. The cautionary tale provided by Washaun Ealey and Caleb King, however, ought to give them pause: talent alone is not enough, and potential counts for nothing without the exertion that brings it to fruition.

The silver lining, if there is one (and there likely is not), is that most of the 2011 SEC freshmen honors are apt to be awarded to Georgia players. It is to be hoped that this will steel those underclassmen to be champions once they have adequate experience to help them maximize their abilities. Unless Isaiah Crowell lives up to the selfsame hype that Washaun Ealey and Caleb King did not, though, the Bulldogs’ chances of winning much of anything this year are, like the last day of my vacation, gone with the wind.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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