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Friday, July 8, 2011

Analysis: Crowell was always The Man, but UGA still needed King

The temptation is to say the departure of Caleb King isn’t a big deal. It was only a matter of time before he messed up again. He wasn’t going to start. He wasn’t that good anyway.

But I do think it’s a big deal.

The transfer of Washaun Ealey, granted that was lesser news. After everything that happened with him, his departure was a fait accompli. I saw that as the Georgia football coaches essentially making their choice between Ealey and King: One would depart, the other would stay to be the veteran presence next to Isaiah Crowell.

Now, it’s Crowell, and … well, hopefully he’s really, extremely, very good.

Don't worry, we’re not forgetting about Ken Malcome and Carlton Thomas. The former has a chance to play a lot too, given his size and speed. But Malcome was only fourth on the depth chart after spring practice, behind walk-on Brandon Harton. He has a ways to go in the eyes of the coaches. As for Thomas, he has to be more of a change-of-pace back, given his size.

King’s departure also means the team is sorely lacking in the depth department. After a spring scrimmage, we media hacks all kind of laughed when the UGA staffers brought Harton around to talk to us, figuring he’d be another spring flash-in-the-pan. But now the 5-foot-6 former track star is one of the first fallback options in case of injury. So is Wes Van Dyk, another walk-on, as well as fullback Zander Ogletree.

Another option is to move Richard Samuel back to tailback. But if Todd Grantham thinks Samuel can contribute on defense, even as a backup, the thinking is he won't be moved back to tailback just to be a backup to Crowell.

So this is why Friday was not a good day for the Georgia football program. King may have made some boneheaded decisions – like his arrest last fall for a failure-to-appear charge – but he wasn’t a team cancer. Teammates like Christian Robinson and Orson Charles posted supportive messages on Twitter after King’s news. Mark Richt started the summer by talking about how "dependable" King had become.

In person, I always found King to be an engaging interview. He was a superstitious, almost eccentric personality: Always wanting to be interviewed in the same spot in the hallway, and claiming to take three showers before each game.

His presence also would have been valuable to Crowell and the team. As a senior, his advice couldn’t have hurt. He was also the team’s best pass-blocker, and averaged 5.4 yards per carry last season.

Sure, Crowell was almost certain to be the main tailback anyway. Richt had been telegraphing that since Feb. 2. But the coaches would have preferred to have a veteran there as competition with King, or as part of a tandem.

Once Crowell signed, there probably wasn’t enough room for Ealey and King. That’s why it wasn’t surprising when one left, and it was less of a surprise when it was Ealey. But now both are gone. That wasn’t what Richt or Georgia wanted.

The Bulldogs might end up being just fine. Crowell could live up to all his hype. The patchwork offensive line could pull through.

But as things stand right now, Georgia is not a better team without Caleb King. That much, at least, should be clear.

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