Georgia coach Mark Richt's recent run of bad luck with his tailbacks has continued with the dismissal of Isaiah Crowell.
Crowell led the Bulldogs in rushing last season, but was booted off the team after numerous off-field issues, and it was officially announced Thursday that he will play for FCS member Alabama State this fall.
Washaun Ealey and Caleb King were other highly regarded Bulldogs tailbacks of recent vintage – well, highly regarded out of high school, anyway – who never quite panned out in Athens. Ealey, too, left school and now is at FCS member Jacksonville State. King never left Athens, but he did miss out on his senior season because of academic ineligibility.
Carlton Thomas also left; he would've been a senior for the Bulldogs this fall but decided to play his final season elsewhere. He was suspended three times last season. Dontavius Jackson also could've been on this season's team, but instead is finishing his career at UAB; he left Georgia before the 2010 season after he was given a six-game suspension.
Georgia muddled through without Ealey and King, and will do so again this fall, seemingly relying on at least one true freshman.
Richt and his staff signed two four-star running backs from North Carolina: Todd Gurley, the No. 42 recruit overall, and Keith Marshall, No. 48 overall. Marshall enrolled early and went through spring ball.
The holdover tailbacks don't engender much confidence. Sophomore Ken Malcome is a tough between-the-tackles runner but he lacks breakaway speed. Senior Richard Samuel is listed as a fullback, but he has played tailback before; he also is a tough inside runner, but he is less explosive than Malcome. Mighty-mite sophomore Brandon Harton (5 feet 6/174 pounds) ran for 247 yards last season, but 232 of those yards came in blowouts of Coastal Carolina, Kentucky and New Mexico State.
Thus, Georgia needs its freshmen to come through, and if they do, this could be a big season. Georgia and South Carolina look to be the two best teams in the SEC East; Florida has numerous offensive questions, Missouri's defense is lacking, Tennessee has a shaky running game and a questionable defense, Vanderbilt doesn't have enough SEC-caliber talent and Kentucky is counting the days until basketball practice starts Oct. 15.
South Carolina has the best running back in the SEC in junior Marcus Lattimore. The Gamecocks also have a better offensive line than Georgia. The Bulldogs have the better passing attack and a slightly better overall defense (though any defense with ends Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor, which is what South Carolina possesses, is going to be painful for opposing quarterbacks).
Georgia has three games against SEC East opponents in September, then travels to South Carolina on the first weekend in October. That means there's not much time for the Bulldogs to experiment at tailback. They need production right away.
• Michigan this week announced some future non-conference games. Included was a contest against Appalachian State (Aug. 30, 2014).
• New Arkansas State coach Gus Malzahn had hoped that former Auburn TB Michael Dyer would be able to play for the Red Wolves this fall, but Dyer's appeal for immediate eligibility was denied. Dyer is an Arkansas native who followed Malzahn from Auburn after he was – ahem – released from his scholarship; Malzahn had been the Tigers' offensive coordinator. Dyer will be eligible in 2013, but already there are rumblings he will declare for next year's NFL draft.
• QB Jordan Webb officially has transferred to Colorado from Kansas. How bad is Colorado's quarterback situation? Webb has a legit chance to start. Texas transfer Connor Wood emerged from spring drills atop the depth chart, but one reason for that is that holdover Nick Hirschman was injured and missed spring practice. Webb started 19 games in his Kansas career, including each one last season, when KU went 2-10.
• The 2012 season kicks off in eight weeks. It can't get here soon enough, right? There are 116 games involving FBS teams that first weekend (Aug. 30-Sept. 3), and 37 of them are matchups against FCS schools. There are four conference matchups, and four teams don't play that first weekend. There were 36 FBS-FCS games on the first weekend last season, and FBS teams went 34-2.
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