Caleb King was one of the biggest recruits to come through Georgia in recent memory. Scout.com listed him as a 5-star prospect and as the #4 RB in his recruiting class. He was the first 5-star RB Georgia landed since Kregg Lumpkin back in 2003, hey wait maybe we should have seen this coming. Just a few weeks ago I discussed Caleb's struggles at Georgia and his "last stand" at Georgia this year.
I was optimistic for his senior year as it seemed like he had turned the corner and was ready to make it one to remember. That all came to a screeching halt this Friday when Caleb was declared ineligible. By itself this wouldn't be that big of a blow for Georgia but coming on the heels of Washaun Ealey leaving this leaves a glaring depth and experience issue at RB for Georgia. Despite Ealey being a more effective RB than Caleb in terms of statistics, the loss of Caleb hurts worse because he seemed to have the right attitude this year and didn't seem to be the "me" guy that Ealey turned out to be. As an additional note Georgia beat writer Seth Emerson has reported that King will enter the NFL Supplemental Draft.
So where does this leave Georgia? It leaves them with only 493 returning rushing yards from last years team. The teams returning leading rusher is junior Carlton Thomas. Thomas was actually pretty highly recruited himself out of high school but he is more of a change of pace or a third down back. He's small and shifty and could be of value to the offense but OC Mike Bobo hasn't quite figured out how to use him yet. Last year Thomas ran the ball 64 times for 272 yards averaging 4.2 yards per carry. As of now, he's the only Georgia RB with experience running the ball in college.
The other three guys on the depth chart are true freshman Isaiah Crowell, RS freshman Boo Malcome and walk-on Brandon Harton. Essentially, King was going to be a guy that was going to try and hold down the starting position and then hand it off to Isaiah Crowell once he was ready. It's possible King could have been more for the Dawgs this year, as I had hoped, but he just has not been a dependable option since he's been on campus and now his chance his over. Now it's time to turn the running game over the young dawgs and give them a shot to run with it.
Losing King and Ealey paves the way for incoming freshman Isaiah Crowell to take the mantle of #1 RB. Will it be that easy? Georgia starts off with Boise State and South Carolina. Boise State was 7th in the Nation last year against the run (granted it was against a very weak schedule but they did hold Virginia Tech to 2.9 yards per carry) and South Carolina was 12th. Those are two very tough match-ups to give to a true freshman like Crowell or a RS Freshman like Boo Malcome in their first two collegiate games.
One thing I like about the potential Crowell/Malcome backfield is that they seem to compliment each other. Malcome doesn't have breakaway speed but is a downhill runner who runs with power. Crowell on the other hand does have breakaway speed and is said to be a legit threat to take it to the house from anywhere on the field. Crowell did not show great durability in High School but his coaches have said that he would have played in the games he missed if they had needed him. A Malcome/Crowell 1-2 punch doesn't sound too bad but it's very risky because of the depth and because both are unproven at the college and SEC level. With King leaving it definitely starts the youth movement at the RB position for Georgia, whether they are ready for it or not.
One thing I think Georgia needs to look at with it's RB depth is to mix things up and be "unpredictable" on offense. I would like to see them run some spread where they come out with Aaron Murray and throw the ball around a little and get the opposing team on their heels. Can you imagine what the defensive coach would think if Georgia breaks the huddle for the first play of the year with Tavarres King, Branden Smith, Freshman Nick Marshall, Freshman Malcolm Mitchell and stud Orson Charles all spread out across the field (or even throw in return ace Brandon Boykin)? I think they are scratching their head or calling timeout. If they don't then you get the ball to Orson over the middle, TavKing deep or Smith or Marshall in space and take your chances.
Georgia has speed to burn and athletes all over the field. Guys like Branden Smith, Nick Marshall, Brandon Boykin, Damian Swann are guys that are fantastic athletes and Georgia should find a way to use them, at least at the beginning of the season, to make an impact on the offensive side of the football. Branden Smith is one guy I've lobbied to see additional playing time on the offensive side of the football and he again showed why this spring when he was the offensive star of the game in Georgia's G-Day game. Another place Georgia has strength is at Tight End. Georgia has the best TE in the SEC in Orson Charles, they have a really good back-up in Aron White and they have a heralded freshman in Jay Rome. They are so stacked that they moved senior Bruce Figgins to FB. What if Georgia comes out with a 3-TE set of Charles, White and Rome and also has Figgins on the field at FB. That's enough to make the opposing coaches scratch their head again and you can run a number of scenarios out of an alignment like that. Those are just two quick examples, but Georgia needs to think out of the box a little and throw some stuff at South Carolina and Boise State that they haven't seen on tape. I'm not talking about trick plays but just different alignments and use of talent that they haven't seen before.
Georgia definitely has enough talent on it's football team to survive it's lack of depth at RB but I think they need to be creative on the offensive side of the football. I'm not asking Georgia to throw out the playbook but if they throw in some wrinkles it could go a long way to helping them survive the first part of their schedule.
One thing is for certain, this is shaping up to be another very interesting year of Georgia football. I know the fans in West Virginia, Ohio State and many other areas will agree with me...let's get the season started ASAP.