Position fight is a good thing

rseibel@macon.comJanuary 30, 2012 

When it comes to National Signing Day, Georgia is a step ahead of a lot of programs.

The Bulldogs’ biggest catch of the recruiting season, tailback Keith Marshall from Raleigh, N.C., is already on the Athens campus. And that presence is making for some good offseason conversation when it comes to Georgia football.

Marshall is expected to challenge incumbent tailback Isaiah Crowell for the starting job during spring practice. It will be a test for both players as they try to prove themselves to coaches in an effort to earn playing time.

Sure, there will be other players on the list of signees that Georgia releases Wednesday. But Marshall is by far the most intriguing. He’s a player who could have a direct effect on the Bulldogs right from the start, potentially in the Sept. 1 season opener against the Mid-American Conference’s Buffalo and a week later in the SEC opener at Missouri.

Some already have written off Crowell in favor of Marshall, citing Crowell’s nagging injuries during the second half of the season and a less-than-stellar record off the field.

If Crowell is any sort of competitor, he’ll shake off the bumps and bruises and refocus on what needs to be done as the offseason goes along. Although his production fell off following the Bulldogs’ game against Auburn, nobody managed to mount a strong challenge to Crowell’s standing on the depth chart. Ken Malcome was Georgia’s top rusher in the final three games, but he only had a combined 127 yards in those games. Crowell now has a challenger in Marshall, and it will be interesting to see how Crowell responds.

If Crowell can’t or won’t compete, then there are plenty of FCS, Division II and junior college programs that wouldn’t mind having him around. There’s nothing wrong with a transfer, and if Georgia doesn’t work for him, he shouldn’t be shy about finding another place to play.

If Crowell responds well to Marshall’s challenge, Georgia will have two strong tailbacks, a situation that Georgia will treasure late in games when players start to tire.

If Crowell doesn’t have an answer, the starting job goes to Marshall, and Crowell becomes another in a long line of Georgia running backs to fizzle after showing early promise.

If Crowell proves himself, Georgia will have a running back who is not afraid to hit the hole and keep moving north and south.

If Crowell falters, we’ll see more nagging injuries, more player rotations and more uncertainty.

In other words, it’s time for Crowell to step up and take charge of the situation. If he doesn’t, someone else will.

And that’s what National Signing Day is all about.

Contact Ron Seibel at 744-4222 or rseibel@macon.com

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