The running back who still has an outside shot at a 1,000-yard season and was named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year worked with Georgia‚Äôs second-team in its bowl practice on Saturday.
Isaiah Crowell said the left ankle sprain that bothered him is no longer the issue, but indicated how he approaches things on a daily basis is the reason for his current backup status.
‚ÄúI think I need to be more accountable and just handle my responsibilities better,‚Äù Crowell said when asked about being behind Ken Malcome, a tailback who quit the team briefly earlier this season. ‚ÄúTeammates and coaches are counting on me to do what I‚Äôm supposed to do.‚Äù
Crowell is viewed by many as a player who carries significant baggage from his missteps off the field to the frequency he asks off the field due to nagging injuries.
Despite that, the Columbus product is still on pace to finish with the third-most rushing yards by a freshman in Georgia history behind only Herschel Walker‚Äôs 1,616 yards in 1980 and Knowshon Moreno‚Äôs 1,334 yards in 2007. Rodney Hampton is next with 890 yards in 1987.
Then comes Crowell, who has rushed for 847 yards and five touchdowns, numbers that have been overshadowed by injury and suspension.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs been a lot of ups and downs,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúI remember the mistakes I made and the good things I did. All I‚Äôve got to stay in my mind is to keep working hard and be the best teammate and person I can be.‚Äù
In the same week in which Crowell was named the SEC Freshman of the Year by the Associated Press, he was bypassed at Georgia‚Äôs team gala for its newcomer of the year award as determined by coaches. Five freshmen were recognized, but Crowell wasn‚Äôt one of them.
The guy who was one of the nationa‚Äôs most-coveted recruits a year ago now is the subject of message board speculation about his future, which he stiff-armed Saturday.
‚ÄúYeah, I‚Äôm happy here,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúI know there‚Äôs rumors about me wanting to transfer, but no I‚Äôve never said that.‚Äù
Crowell did say earlier this season that he was shooting for a 1,000-yard season.
To still accomplish that, he‚Äôll need to rush for a career-high yardage total against Michigan State in the Outback Bowl.
‚ÄúI don‚Äôt think it‚Äôs out of reach,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúIf it happens, I‚Äôm happy, but if it doesn‚Äôt I‚Äôm still happy. I think I had a great season, freshman season. If it doesn‚Äôt happen I‚Äôll just come back and try again next year.‚Äù
Crowell had 147 yards on 30 carries against Ole Miss on Sept. 24, but he had just 36 carries in Georgia‚Äôs last five games, missing one game because of the sprained ankle and another due to a suspension. He also was suspended for the first quarter of the Vanderbilt game.
‚ÄúI feel like he‚Äôs learned a lot,‚Äù said junior tailback Richard Samuel, who offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said was limited in practice Saturday after ankle surgery. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a lot to know what to do and not to do and the expectations of how to be a team guy.‚Äù
Crowell, who says his ankle now is ‚Äú95 percent, almost 100,‚Äù is fifth in the SEC in rushing at 77 yards per game.
‚ÄúI think Isaiah‚Äôs done really well,‚Äù Bobo said. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs a freshman. He‚Äôs made a lot of mistakes freshmen make, but at times he‚Äôs shown he can be one of the best backs in this league. He‚Äôs going to continue to push and strive to become better and become a more consistent player.‚Äù
Bobo said Malcome and Crowell are competing for the starting job now with Brandon Harton working as the third tailback. Carlton Thomas (knee), like Samuel, is limited due to injury.
‚ÄúWe expect both of those guys back,‚Äù Bobo said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs hard to have a full-fledged competition when they‚Äôre not getting any reps.‚Äù
There will be more competition in the spring.
Keith Marshall from Raleigh, N.C., the nation‚Äôs top-rated running back by Scout.com, is set to enroll at Georgia next month,
‚ÄúReally, I‚Äôm happy to get another guy,‚Äù said Crowell, who hasn‚Äôt met Marshall face-to-face, but has talked to him on the phone and traded text messages. ‚ÄúI thought we needed more running backs. I think that‚Äôs a good thing.‚Äù