ATHENS, Ga. – Less than 13 months after he first arrived to join Georgia’s football program, five-star running back Isaiah Crowell is no longer a part of it.
This proved to be the final straw in a short-lived and star-crossed relationship between player and program, leaving a remarkable amount of potential and talent to waste after only one tumultuous season.
For reasons that likely went beyond what happened Friday morning, Richt needed less than a day to issue his decision.
“We have a dedicated and committed group of men who are working hard to prepare for the coming season,” Richt said in a statement announcing Crowell’s dismissal. “Our total focus will be directed toward the team and this effort.”
From a distance, most would have to conclude that too much was expected of Crowell in the first year. How else do you explain a season with a team-high 850 rushing yards (sixth in the SEC) being viewed by some as a disappointment?
In the past year, no other player on the Bulldogs team has been subjected to the scrutiny, speculation and harsh spotlight that Crowell came under. Some of it was unfair given his age and maturity.
But some of it he brought on himself. After all, this is a confident player who boldly said this spring that his goal in 2012 was the Heisman Trophy. Crowell was also suspended twice during the 2011 season, including the New Mexico State game for a failed drug test.
In addition, there were rumbles of practice blow-ups, missed summer workouts, a lack of conditioning and a few nagging injuries that became so prominent because he would take himself out of games.
The tone of teammates and coaches began changing in the spring, however, when it came to Crowell.
“Isaiah and I have had a few talks during the season, offseason ... mostly just encouraging him to understand his position and understand the responsibility of where he is,” Richt said in the spring. “I think he’s trying to get there. I’ve definitely seen improvement. I think he could tell you that he’s still got a ways to go, but we’re pleased with the direction he’s moving.”
“I think I need to be more accountable and be able for my teammates to trust me,” Crowell said during spring practices.
A quiet offseason to this point had suggested he may be taking those steps toward maturity that UGA's staff and fan base badly wanted to see.
Following the G-Day Game, Crowell noted that he hadn’t let any nagging injuries keep him off the practice field this past spring, which met a goal.
“I stayed healthy,” Crowell said. “I stayed out there every day. I think it was a good thing for my coaches to see. I wanted to be on the field.”
Ken Malcome actually was considered the Bulldogs' No. 1 tailback after spring, but all along you got the sense that was more to keep complacency away from Crowell than anything else. A recently released summer depth chart had an "OR" placed between Malcome and Crowell, indicating the two were being viewed as co-starters.
And now, suddenly, he has.