Fans of the the University of Georgia saw what Marcus Lattimore, a true freshman, did last year for South Carolina and asked, "Why not us?" The belief was that if we could get a heralded, running back recruit he could make an immediate impact for us, just like Lattimore did for the Gamecocks. Richt landed the running back the fans all wanted: Isaiah Crowell. Crowell was rated the #4 running back in the nation by Rivals and was a five-star recruit just like Lattimore. Suddenly, the sun was shining on Athens, for our saviour had arrived. It was even assumed that Crowell would easily supplant Ealey and King on the depth chart, as much a credit to Crowell’s talent as to a sign of how disappointing the ground game was in 2010.
While I am glad Crowell chose UGA, and I hope that he has a great career, I was surprised at how many of our eggs we (coaches and fans) were putting in the Crowell basket. Although I don’t follow recruiting too closely, it seemed to me that we had a highly rated tailback in just about every class, and it was also my impression that most of these backs did not live up to the hype, so I did a little research. Here are all the running backs Richt has signed since taking the head coaching job at UGA, broken out by year, and their corresponding national rank at their position. Yahoo!’s rival site only went back to 2002, Richt’s second year, so I don’t have the rankings for the 2001 class.
2001: Tyson Browning, Mike Gilliam, Tony Milton
2002: Tyson Browning NR (Athlete), Michael Cooper #8, Reshard Dudley #12
2003: Kregg Lumpkin #2, Danny Ware #45
2004: Thomas Brown #4, Danny Ware
2006: Shuan Chapas NR, Knowshon Moreno #10
2007: Caleb King #8
2009: Washaun Ealey #11
2010: Ken Malcome #24
2011: Isaiah Crowell #4
As you can see, Isaiah isn’t the first highly touted running back recruit Richt has signed. I must admit, that I have never seen any tape of Crowell running the football, so what makes him so different than the others on this list? There are some players that had a solid career at UGA, but I see only one true difference maker, Knowshon Moreno, and he didn’t even play his freshman year.
Here is a summary of the careers of the UGA running backs that were rated in the top 15 in the nation at their position by Rivals:
Past poor performance doesn't guarantee future failures, but given the above, I think it is unrealistic to expect Isaiah Crowell to have a dominate freshman year. My hope is that what has held all the other heralded players that came before him back was the timidity of the coaching staff to turn them loose. With the departure of Caleb King and Washaun Ealey, the coaches will have no choice but to hand Crowell the ball and to hope that they have found their Lattimore.
Best of luck in the 2011 season. Go Dawgs!