“And I was just like ‘Man, let him run, he knows how to run.’” – Joe Cox
The 2009 LSU game is seared in the memory of the Georgia fan base because of the excessive celebration penalty called on A.J. Green, but it was also memorable in introducing us to Washaun Ealey, who had his redshirt taken off and proceeded to give the Dawgs a much-needed spark in that game.
Ealey capped off that season with a 20-carry, 183-yard performance against Georgia Tech that brought us the catchphrase “I run this state”. We expected big things from him going into last season.
Instead, we got a hodgepodge of indifference (who can forget the poor pass blocking – and this – in the Arkansas game?) and lack of focus that led to key fumbles in the South Carolina and Mississippi State games along with the talent that manifested itself at times like the Kentucky game in which he tied the Georgia record for rushing touchdowns.
Last season, the only thing big about Ealey’s game was the level of frustration it produced.
The frustration continued into this offseason, which culminated in Ealey’s suspension less than a week after Georgia had signed its most heralded running back recruit in years. That’s not just a case of bad timing; that’s the sign of someone who doesn’t think he’s going to be held accountable.
And now, having guessed wrong on that, he’s gone.
“I hate to see him go,” said Milan Turner, who coached Ealey at Emanuel County Institute, but said he had not yet reached Ealey on Monday night. “I was really hoping it would work out for Washaun and for the University of Georgia. It’s a privilege to play there. We’ve known Washaun’s had some incidents here and there that have kind of gotten him in trouble. Who knows the ins and outs? That’s something that will be between him and Georgia football and hopefully they’ll part ways on good terms.”
The notable part of the story isn’t that Georgia loses its leading rusher from last season (and by the way, that’s not even close). It’s that Mark Richt is willing to part ways with Georgia’s leading rusher from last season. And that he clearly intends for Ealey’s tumultuous offseason to serve as a lesson to his former teammates. Given the earlier warning, I can’t say that Ealey’s departure is that big a shock. But I still haven’t gotten over my surprise that Richt had the stones to draw a line in the sand in the first place.
Crowell will no doubt get most of the attention from the move, but I’m hoping that it lights a fire under Caleb King, another gifted high school running back who’s shown flashes on occasion and has also had his share of lapses.
… McClendon said he is focused now on helping Ealey and recruiting this spring.
“I’m sure all that other stuff,” he said, “is going to sort itself out with what guys do on the field.”
It seems a message has been sent. We’ll see if it’s been received.
UPDATE: The bottom line from Gentry Estes is pretty cut and dried.
… As for Ealey, this is what happens when determined coaches lose faith. We’ve passed the era of second and third and fourth changes (sic, I think) at Georgia. This team needs to win now, and no matter what you may believe, know that Monday’s events were part of that design.
Design. Would we have seen Richt do this a year ago, had Ealey’s transgressions happened then? I doubt it.