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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