All is not lost for Bulldogs

dshirley@macon.comJuly 2, 2011 

Isaiah Crowell has yet to play a snap for the Georgia Bulldogs, but he has been considered a key part of this year’s team for months.

To be honest, since the day he signed with the Bulldogs in early February, Crowell has been seen as the key to this year’s squad. Yes, Crowell is that important to the Bulldogs’ hopes.

Actually, the entire freshman class is that critical. That’s what happens when a team is coming off a 6-7 season and has a bunch of questions that need to be answered. Still, Georgia is not headed toward a fall-off-the-cliff season like some people believe it is. In fact, the Bulldogs should be much better than most of the naysayers believe.

Yes, the Bulldogs have plenty of trouble spots: little depth on the offensive line, a lack of an elite returning playmaker at wide receiver or at running back and a need for dynamic talent on defense. But those are all questions that can be answered, with some help from the incoming freshman class, and if they are answered quickly, Georgia could be headed toward a strong season.

Head coach Mark Richt has done a good job in his time with the Bulldogs, and it’s not like he forgot how to coach football last season. Teams go through ups and downs, and the 2010 season was definitely a down for Georgia. Richt has done enough at Georgia to be allowed one of those seasons every now and then. If the Bulldogs have another one this year, then all bets are off.

But my bet is on them not having another one like that in 2011, and that starts with Crowell, the talented running back from Columbus, and the rest of that powerful freshman class. Georgia’s signing class was ranked as one of the best in the country for a reason -- there is a ton of talent, and there is a balance of talent on offense and defense.

As good as Crowell is supposed to be, Ray Drew is expected to be his equal on defense. Granted, Drew, a defensive end/linebacker, didn’t play up to his potential at Thomas County Central, but the potential is there, and that’s what is so exciting about this class for Georgia fans -- the potential. Crowell and Drew were both ranked as five-star players by Rivals, and there were 12 players in the class rated with four stars. We’ll see if they pan out, but if they can offer some immediate help, the Bulldogs should be much improved over last season.

Georgia is already ahead of the game a little bit because it has a talented quarterback in Aaron Murray, and that’s always a plus. Having a terrific quarterback to lead the way is something every team strives for, but few actually are lucky to be in that situation.

The Bulldogs are also helped by the fact that they play in the SEC East and not the SEC West. If the Bulldogs were in the West, they could be in trouble, but the East is there to be had. Think about it, South Carolina, yes South Carolina, is the defending champion. Florida was bad last year and has a new head coach, so the jury is out on the Gators this season (although Will Muschamp will do a terrific job with them eventually), and Tennessee, Kentucky and Vanderbilt are just not that good. So Georgia could take a step forward in the division pretty quickly.

The Bulldogs will find out quickly if they’re ready to take that step as they open their season against Boise State and South Carolina. That may be the toughest opening two-game stretch in the country, but if they can have some success in those games, it should set the tone for a season Bulldogs fans will enjoy.

They’ll certainly enjoy watching Crowell carry the ball, leading the way for the incoming freshmen and possibly for the entire Georgia team.

Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or dshirley@macon.com

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