Statistically, Isaiah Crowell had a successful freshman year in the SEC for the Georgia Bulldogs. Crowell finished first on the team in rushing and sixth in the SEC. He finished with 850 yards on 185 carries averaging 4.59 ypc and scoring 5 TDs on the ground. In his first five games, Crowell ran for 515 yards (60% of his total yards for the year). In the final 9 games, Crowell only ran the ball more than 10 times on four occasions. He had an outstanding game against Auburn (132 yards and 1 TD) and had some big runs against Florida (81 yards). In the other 7 games (of which he played in 5; missing one game due to a suspension and one due to injury) he combined for just 122 rushing yards. In his last four games he finished with 11 yards against Kentucky, a DNP against Georgia Tech, 15 yards against LSU in the SEC Championship Game and 3 yards on 3 carries against Michigan State in the Outback Bowl.
Down the stretch Crowell was banged up with several injuries including an ankle sprain. Crowell's penchant for asking out of games and some of his sideline antics (turning away from Mark Richt on the sideline in the LSU game when he was getting an ear full) drew some negative feelings from the UGA fan base at the end of the season. Crowell was characterized by many as "soft".
Chip Towers at the AJC wrote a very interesting piece yesterday on Crowell. Towers had a chance to speak with Isaiah's "Big Brother" on the team, Arthur Lynch. Lynch defended Isaiah saying:
As a junior or a senior, maybe he should grind through it. But I thought he grinded through it enough. He sat one game and then he tried to play in that SEC Championship Game when we needed him. You could tell in practice he was hurting. It wasn’t like he was going to cop out in the game because he couldn’t reach the level of success he had in prior games. I thought he was legitimately hurt and fought through it more than anyone could expect. I was proud of him for just going out there and having some carries
Lynch went on to defend Crowell and also talked about the growth that he's seen from Isaiah this off-season:
The enigmatic freshman has been “leading his group” during mat drills and weightlifting sessions and said he expects “incredible things” out of Crowell this coming fall.
While the UGA fanbase was somewhat down on Isaiah, others still thought he was good enough to vote him 4th in the "Freshman of the Year" category for the Bloguin College Football Awards that I hosted this past December. Georgia heavily recruited the running back position this year and landed two top notch recruits in Keith Marshall (early enrollee) and Todd Gurley. One of the most interesting stories this off-season and this fall will be how Isaiah Crowell responds to the disappointing end to his 2011 freshman year that started off with such high hopes.
I'm of the mind-set that Crowell is not an every down back. In this day and age of football that's not necessarily a knock it just means that I believe he would be most effective as a part of a tandem where he gets 15-20 touches per game. The best thing to happen to Isaiah this season might be the addition of Marshall and Gurley. Georgia will have much greater depth at the running back position this year and that will only help Isaiah in the long-run.