ATHENS, Ga. - Georgia's recent history of off-the-field tailback troubles didn't end earlier this year with the departures of Washaun Ealey and Caleb King.
Bulldogs coach Mark Richt announced Tuesday afternoon that three tailbacks -- freshman Isaiah Crowell, redshirt junior Carlton Thomas and redshirt freshman Ken Malcome -- have been suspended for Saturday's game against visiting New Mexico State for violating team policies. Georgia has now had six tailbacks suspended in the past two years.
"I think it's an opportunity for a lot of guys to step up," Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said Tuesday night after practice. "It's an opportunity for us to change some things up and maybe do some things differently in figuring out ways to move the ball."
Crowell leads the Bulldogs this season with 689 rushing yards and has three 100-yard performances.
Bobo would not discuss specifics of the suspensions, including an ESPN report that the three failed a drug test that was administered last week. Richt made the announcement through a release after his weekly news conference.
"We have certain standards in all that we do, and their actions do not reflect the Georgia way," Richt said in the release. "They will serve their suspensions, learn a lesson and I'm sure be better men for it."
Georgia's tailback depth had thinned before the suspensions.
Junior Richard Samuel underwent surgery Tuesday morning to stabilize his left ankle, which he injured on the final play of Saturday's 24-20 win over Florida in Jacksonville. Samuel, who switched to tailback from inside linebacker in July, had a season-high 17 carries for a season-high 58 yards against the Gators and scored the winning touchdown from 4 yards out early in the fourth quarter.
The top candidates to start Saturday, according to Bobo, are 5-foot-6, 174-pound redshirt sophomore Brandon Harton and 5-9, 180-pound true freshman Kyle Karempelis. Harton was awarded a scholarship in August but has played in just one game this season, rushing 11 times for 33 yards against Coastal Carolina, while Karempelis has yet to play.
When asked if he could spell "Karempelis," Bobo said no.
Bobo also could use cornerbacks Brandon Boykin and Branden Smith at tailback. Those two have combined on eight carries for 116 yards this season.
Samuel, who will miss the rest of the regular season, has been made a captain for this week's game. He switched to tailback a week after King was ruled academically ineligible for the 2011 season.
"Richard probably had his best performance in a really big game," Richt said. "For it to happen on the last play is sad for him."
King also was academically ineligible for last season's Liberty Bowl loss to Central Florida and missed games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky for failing to show up for a court date to address a speeding ticket.
Ealey sat out last year's opener after an arrest for driving on a suspended license and leaving the scene of an accident, and he was suspended again in February for failing to show up for a disciplinary run. He was granted an unconditional release in May.
Dontavius Jackson was suspended for the first six games of the 2010 season following a DUI arrest before he chose to transfer.