Crowell to start against Coastal Carolina

Isaiah Crowell, who played like a lead back even in a reserve
role, is ready for his first start as Georgia’s tailback.

Coach Mark Richt said Tuesday that Crowell would start Saturday
against Coastal Carolina.

Playing behind Richard Samuel, Crowell rushed for 118 yards with
a touchdown in last week’s 45-42 loss to then-No. 12 South
Carolina. The freshman also caught a 17-yard touchdown pass.

”I think he is a very special back,” Richt said. ”As the game
was going on, I thought he was running well, but when I looked at
the film … he really made some great runs.”

Richt says Crowell’s production is ”a big part” of his
promotion to starter. Richt also said Samuel is ”kind of hobbled”
by a heel injury. If Samuel can’t play this week, junior Carlton
Thomas could have his first carries of the season behind
Crowell.

Crowell leads Georgia (0-2) with 178 yards rushing. Richt said
Crowell will benefit from playing against Boise State in the
Georgia Dome and his first Southeastern Conference game against
South Carolina.

”I think he understands a lot more about what it takes and I
think he’s even more motivated to work even harder in practice and
to make sure he takes care of every little detail,” Richt said.
”Not to say that he wasn’t, but just he’s a freshman and until you
play in an SEC game like that you really don’t get it, fully. I saw
more urgency on his part, even in yesterday’s practice. He seems
excited about what the future holds.”

Richt said more motivation also can come with moving into the
starting role.

”Now that he’s in that role, a lot of guys when they get in
that starter’s role, they get an even greater sense of urgency in
terms of preparation,” Richt said.

Georgia needs Crowell and a stronger running game to help take
pressure off quarterback Aaron Murray, who has been sacked eight
times in the two games.

Murray said Crowell has ”looked awesome” in his first two
games.

”I mean, everyone can see it when it comes to the running game,
passing game, blocking,” Murray said. ”The kid is a special
player. He only gets better and better with every game. He can say
`Hey, I can play in the SEC game. I can play against big-time
competition.’

Crowell’s learning curve included a fumble that set up a key
South Carolina touchdown.

The fumble hurt, but Crowell said he felt better when he was
given another chance.

”I learned that they have confidence in me,” Crowell said
after the game. ”It was my fault. I told them it wouldn’t happen
again. It was nice to get back out there so I could try to redeem
myself.”

Georgia needs Crowell after losing the top two rushers from
2009. Washaun Ealey transferred to Jacksonville State and Caleb
King was ruled academically ineligible.

Crowell is averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Samuel, who moved back
to tailback from linebacker this summer, has 18 carries for 55
yards, an average of 3.1 yards per carry.

Richt hopes Crowell’s endurance improves. The freshman took a
shot in his ribs against South Carolina and had difficulty
breathing when asked to carry the ball on back-to-back plays.

”I think he’ll stay in a little bit more than a couple runs,”
Richt said. ”I think his endurance will build as we go, as he
prepares and as it cools, too, during the season.”

Freshmen also have moved into prominent roles to replace 2009
leading receiver A.J. Green, now with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Freshman Malcolm Mitchell leads Georgia with eight catches for 116
yards and a touchdown. Redshirt freshman Michael Bennett has three
catches, including a grab against South Carolina that Richt called
”one of the best catches I’ve ever seen.”

”I was very impressed,” said Richt, who said the two young
receivers still make mistakes but ”are very, very
competitive.”

”They’ve got really good ball skills, obviously, and there’s a
toughness about them I really like,” Richt said. ”Sometimes it
takes time to get a guy tough enough to play the game the way it
should be played and block the way you should block or at least get
after it the way you should get after it. I think these guys showed
up with some physical and mental toughness that I really
like.”

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