5 star running backs are a dime a dozen. More fail to meet the hype than succeed. If you can hit in a HRun 2 of 10 u r set.—
David Pollack (@davidpollack47) July 10, 2011
There’s lots of concern out there as to whether Isaiah Crowell may fall in to the group of eight that Pollack refers to there. Or at least plenty of doubts that he can shape up to be the kind of freshman running back who made an impact last season.
… Isaiah Crowell could be as good and have all the physical tools as the best running back in the country, but what could hold him back is not himself; rather, it is more of the situation he is stepping into.
South Carolina’s offense is built around more four-wide sets with a single back, leaving more holes in the defense to run the football without a blocking fullback. In Spurrier’s offense, we all know he loves to throw the football, and it comes mostly in more than two-wide receiver sets. However, I will say Spurrier has been running the football more than he ever has in his coaching career over the last three to four years.
Michael Dyer is in the same situation in Gus Malzahn’s offense at Auburn.
Mark Richt’s offense, on the other hand, is built around more of a traditional two-wide receiver set and an I-formation backfield. Richt always utilizes the fullback in his offense running the football. Now, I’m not saying Georgia does not show four-wide receiver sets because they do, but Richt utilizes less four-wide sets than Spurrier.
Another reason I’m questioning the impact level is because of the offensive line. The Bulldogs lost their best offensive lineman Trinton Sturdivant to his third ACL injury. They only return two starters now in tackle Cordy Glenn and center Ben Jones. This offensive line depth is paper thin, and the experience level is of major concern.
With a pro-style offense combined with numerous questions surrounding the offensive line, I am just led to believe Crowell’s impact as a true freshman will not be as great as Lattimore or Dyer’s.
Now some of that analysis is wrong – Sturdivant hasn’t been Georgia’s best offensive lineman since he went down with his first injury – and some of it’s a little overstated, as you’re about to see, but the fact is that Pollack’s right to some extent. It’s always going to be something of a crap shoot as to whether any freshman running back is SEC-ready.
But here’s the thing: some of ‘em are. Here’s a list of freshmen running backs who finished in the top ten in the conference in rushing yards per game over the past five seasons, via cfbstats.com:
- 2010: Lattimore, Dyer
- 2009: Norman, Richardson
- 2008: Ingram
- 2007: Moreno, Grant
- 2006: Coker, Dixon
All kinds of running styles there and all kinds of offenses, not to mention all kinds of levels of surrounding support. If there’s a common thread in that list, it’s a combination of player talent and coaching commitment to deploy the talent.
One thing in Crowell’s favor to consider is that there’s not exactly a lot of competition for carries in the Georgia backfield at this point. Malcome is as untested as Crowell (remember, too, that he slipped to fourth on the depth chart after spring practice) and we’re all aware of Carlton Thomas’ limitations. It’s easy to forget that Moreno’s freshman season took off after Thomas Brown was injured and Bobo had no choice but to turn to Moreno as a workhorse. If Crowell’s as good as the recruitniks claim, it’s likely he’ll be given plenty of opportunities to show it.