Besides Jadeveon Clowney, there is not another more hyped and prized recruit suiting up for a SEC Football team September 3rd than Georgia running back Isaiah Crowell. Crowell was the Pied Piper for this Georgia “Dream Team” recruiting class, and Bulldog fans hope Crowell is the answer for the running game – or lack thereof.
To make an impact as a freshman in the SEC, there has to be a combination of several factors, from being physically ready to play (most aren’t) to stepping into a good situation to fill a need right away. Obviously everything in life depends on timing mixed with a little luck, in business and in sports. Crowell has every opportunity to succeed because he is physically ready, and there is a need to fill in the Bulldogs’ offense…immediately. He was going to be asked to help Caleb King with running back production, but King is now gone from the team. That leaves one – Isaiah Crowell – and a couple of backups in Carlton Thomas and Ken Malcome.
Right now Isaiah Crowell is the same caliber of athlete as both Marcus Lattimore and Michael Dyer upon entering college. Is he as good of a running back? It’s certainly debatable, but we will soon find out. Crowell is as fast as both players, and he has the weight that both players had leading up to their first year. Lattimore was 210 lbs and Dyer was 201 lbs, and Crowell is 210 lbs.
As freshmen, Lattimore rushed for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns, while Dyer rushed for 1,093 yards and five touchdowns. Lattimore did carry the football 67 more times than Dyer, which gave Dyer a high yard-per-carry average. Nonetheless, both had incredible numbers as freshmen.
For argument’s sake, let’s stick to the Marcus Lattimore comparison.
Lattimore gave South Carolina a legitimate step up in total offensive production. Before Lattimore, South Carolina averaged 20.6 points per game, had 92 first downs rushing on the year, 3.6 yards-per-carry production from the backs, 121 rushing yards-per-game average, and 12 rushing touchdowns, and they had a 53% ratio in scoring touchdowns in the red zone.
With Lattimore, USC boosted in every category. The Gamecocks averaged 30.9 points per game, 130 first downs rushing, 4.1 yards per carry, 154 rushing yards per game and 26 rushing touchdowns. More importantly, this team increased to scoring 68% of their red zone tries into touchdowns. That is a 15% increase.
Physically, Crowell certainly looks the part, but can he get to those numbers?
I’m just not convinced, and here’s why:
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.