Tailback Washaun Ealey‚Äôs turbulent Georgia football career is over.
The rising junior, who twice was suspended since last August, met with coach Mark Richt this afternoon and was granted an unconditional release to transfer.
‚ÄúWashaun and I have had several conversations in recent weeks,‚Äù Richt said in a statement released this evening. ‚ÄúWe both have come to the conclusion that a transfer to another institution would be in his best interest.‚Äù
Ealey led the Bulldogs in rushing the past two years. He ran for 183 yards in a 30-24 upset of No. 7 Georgia Tech as a freshman and set a program record with five rushing touchdowns in a 44-31 win against Kentucky last season, but made just as much news off the field.
He was suspended for the season opener last year after his arrest for hit-and-run of a parked vehicle and driving with a suspended license. He was suspended again in February from team activities for less than three weeks for violating team rules. Richt said then that Ealey had not done things ‚Äúthe Georgia way.‚Äù He returned, but missed most of spring practices with a pulled hamstring.
‚ÄúI hate to see him go,‚Äù said Milan Turner, who coached Ealey at Emanuel County Institute, but said he had not yet reached Ealey tonight. ‚ÄúI was really hoping it would work out for Washaun and for the University of Georgia. It‚Äôs a privilege to play there. We‚Äôve known Washaun‚Äôs had some incidents here and there that have kind of gotten him in trouble. Who knows the ins and outs? That‚Äôs something that will be between him and Georgia football and hopefully they‚Äôll part ways on good terms.‚Äù
Ealey was likely to lose playing time–if not the starting job–to highly-touted freshman Isaiah Crowell from Carver Columbus who is being looked at to breathe new life into a rushing game that ranked 10th in the SEC last year for a team that went 6-7.
Running backs coach Bryan McClendon said this evening that he did not know which school Ealey will play for next after speaking with him.
‚ÄúNo, not right now,‚Äù McClendon said. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs got some things to look at and we‚Äôre trying to make sure that we make the right choice for him. He has some options. There‚Äôs still plenty of options out there for him so we‚Äôre trying to do what we can to put him in a good position still.‚Äù
One possible destination for Ealey could be Georgia Southern, which is some 30 miles from his Stillmore home.
McClendon would not say if Ealey had stepped out of line again before parting ways with Georgia.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre not going to venture into that,‚Äù he said.
Ealey could not be reached for comment.
‚ÄúObviously just like for anybody, you want to make sure that guys do well in life,‚Äù McClendon said. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs my main focus for him right now that he sets himself up to do well in life outside of football. He‚Äôs got to make sure it‚Äôs the right situation for him on and off the field.‚Äù
Ealey rushed for 811 yards and 11 touchdowns last season but was benched after costly fumbles near the goal line against South Carolina and Mississippi State.
After his second suspension, Ealey never seemed to get completely out of Richt‚Äôs doghouse.
‚ÄúSometimes things just don‚Äôt work out,‚Äù Turner said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôve just got to believe that it will end good for both of them. They can part on good teams and he can continue somewhere else and do great things.‚Äù
Georgia still also has senior Caleb King, junior Carlton Thomas and redshirt freshman Ken Malcome at tailback.
McClendon said he is focused now on helping Ealey and recruiting this spring.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm sure all that other stuff,‚Äù he said, ‚Äúis going to sort itself out with what guys do on the field.‚Äù
–Please follow me at Twitter.com/marcweiszer