The quarterback and receiver turned out all right at the University of Georgia. Now it’s up to the tailback.
Coach Mark Richt made the ninth of 11 Bulldog Club stops Thursday evening in Dalton before a crowd of nearly 300, and the most recurring topic for him this spring has been signee Isaiah Crowell. The 5-foot-11, 210-pounder from Carver High in Columbus was ESPN’s top tailback nationally, and Richt said the attention accompanying Crowell equals that of Matthew Stafford in 2006 and A.J. Green in 2008.
“I think it is very similar to those two,” Richt said. “There certainly has been a buzz about him all along, and then after the departure of Washaun [Ealey], the buzz has gotten even louder.”
Crowell’s arrival will take place a year after the nation’s top two tailback prospects, Marcus Lattimore and Michael Dyer, signed with Southeastern Conference schools and instantly produced 1,000-yard seasons. Lattimore led South Carolina to its first SEC East title, and Dyer was Auburn’s offensive MVP in the BCS championship win over Oregon.
Lattimore and Dyer had no trouble adjusting to the SEC stage, and Crowell’s past and future coaches hope for the same for him.
“He can’t go up there believing he’s the savior of that university, because they have a lot of great players there,” Carver coach Dell McGee said. “His teammates there will definitely have to take some of the pressure off him, and we’ll have some talks before he leaves. He doesn’t need to put pressure on himself to where he’s not performing or to where it becomes a stress for him and he can’t learn the things he needs to be learning.”
Richt said all newcomers get help adjusting to the college scene, and he added that there are already things planned involving older players to help Crowell.
“The biggest thing any freshman has to realize is that he will have to earn his job,” Richt said. “He has to earn the respect of his coaches and teammates by his work ethic, and I think it’s much better to come in with a humble attitude and an attitude of wanting to help the team in any way possible and wanting to learn.
“A.J. may have done the best job of anybody with that. He hooked up with Mohamed [Massaquoi], who was a guy who really understood what was going on. Mohamed was a very mature player and was a leader, and he kind of took A.J. under his wing and showed him the ropes in more ways than football.”
Crowell rushed for 1,721 yards and 18 touchdowns on 147 carries last season (11.7 per carry), and he had 305 yards and five scores on 20 rushes during Carver’s quarterfinal rout of Thomasville. He was held to 94 yards on 20 carries during a semifinal loss at Calhoun, when he also drew a pair of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
McGee believes Crowell is talented enough as a runner to contribute immediately but that he will need tutoring on the pass-blocking aspect.
As for the hype, both Crowell and Richt have contributed. While Stafford and Green committed to the Bulldogs many months before they signed, Crowell waited until signing day and held up an English Bulldog on ESPNU as he made his declaration.
Richt told ESPNU the same day that he wouldn’t be shocked to see Crowell “running that rock” Sept. 3 against Boise State, potentially on the opening play.
“That’s the expectation,” Richt said. “Everybody is human, and you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. Some guys handle these things better than others. Isaiah is in a situation where there is an awful lot of celebrity in regard to him without him playing a snap. It’s the way of life nowadays with all the interest in recruiting.
“He’s just got to understand that we know he’s human and we know he will make mistakes. We know all those things, but on the other hand he’s a guy who wants this opportunity to play right away and to become a big impact on our team.”
A different world
This is the 11th spring Richt has gone on the speaking circuit, and much has changed from his first. Not only are media members attending each stop now, but fans can tweet what he says.
“It’s not the same,” he said. “You can’t just have fun with the fans, or if you can, it’s only to a certain degree. You have to guard your words. That’s all there is to it.”
Richt admits he rarely is asked a new question during the back half of his tour but said “everybody seems to have a good time, so there is definitely a value to these things.”
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...