For the handful of Georgia fans still holding out hope that fifth-year senior Caleb King could keep the running game out of the hands of a true freshman, it's time to face the music: King has been declared academically ineligible for the 2011 season, ending his star-crossed college career. Taken with the hasty exit of leading rusher Washaun Ealey in the spring, the Bulldogs have no one left to keep coveted signee Isaiah Crowell from taking over the starting job even if they wanted to.
For the most part, Crowell's instant rise to at least significant part-time duty has been taken for granted since he signed with UGA in February, even by coach Mark Richt, who all but named Crowell the starter during a recruiting trip. In Ealey and Crowell, though, Georgia is watching more than 2,800 career yards and 25 touchdowns walk out the door with only a promise in their place.
In King's case, specifically, there's a bit of black of irony in bowing out to a celebrated up-and-comer, given that King was once the hyped up-and-comer facing fairly ludicrous expectations his own self. His ascension to the top of the depth chart was almost immediately grounded, first by injuries, then by the emergence of All-American Knowshon Moreno, then by more injuries. King was usually the "Plan B" option while splitting time with Ealey the last two years, and missed two games after being briefly jailed in the middle of last season for failing to appear in court on a traffic charge. He foreshadowed today's news by getting himself declared academically ineligible for last December's Liberty Bowl.
At one point and one point only, in an 18-carry, 166-yard, two-touchdown romp over Georgia Tech in the 2009 finale, did King look like the star Bulldog fans were waiting on him to become for the better part of four years. For Crowell, it's just one more burden to bear in a make-or-break season for his head coach: If he can't avoid the same fate, there's a good chance this time that Richt won't be around for the denouement.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.