In Crowell’s backyard, Richt backs up tailback

April 26, 2012 

COLUMBUS -- It took until the fourth question, but Isaiah Crowell’s name finally came up. It was inevitable.

The occasion was UGA Day in Columbus, and Georgia head coach Mark Richt was speaking. A fan asked for the microphone and began talking about Crowell, the Columbus native and freshman tailback. He wondered whether Crowell, who was injury-prone last year, was “SEC tough.”

Richt defended his tailback.

“He was the Freshman of the Year in the Southeastern Conference. He didn’t do too bad,” Richt said.

The crowd laughed. Richt went on, saying that every freshman has a “learning curve,” and that Crowell has had to go through growing pains in the spotlight. He finished by saying his tailback had a good spring and made every practice.

The answer was enough to satisfy that fan, Gene Smith Jr., who said Richt’s answer assuaged his concerns.

“He convinced me,” Smith said. “He’ll be a great back.”

At least for now, the Columbus-to-Athens pipeline is all about the positive.

There are three Carver-Columbus graduates on the current roster, including two of the team’s most high-profile players.

Crowell is one. Jarvis Jones, the consensus All-American last year, is another.

But Crowell continues to grab the most attention, dating back to last year’s signing announcement in Columbus. He had a mixed freshman season, starting well but hobbling down the stretch. He was also suspended twice.

The news around the much-publicized Crowell has been quiet lately, and he had a good spring practice. Richt said he, along with other staff members, have taken a role in working closely with Crowell.

“I get to know a lot of our guys, some better than others. I’ve gotten to know Isaiah better than some other young men over the years,” Richt said during an interview prior to the meeting. “But (running backs) coach (Bryan) McClendon is certainly a big part of his life as his position coach. As is (head athletic trainer) Ron Courson, and (strength coach) Joe (Tereshinski). Our academic staff. It takes a village for Isaiah and all our guys.”

The recent history with Carver was also an occasionally rocky one. Last year, several Carver recruits were arrested following a theft from UGA’s locker room. (One of them, Deion Bonner, quietly signed with Tennessee this year.) And a couple years ago there was a brouhaha when quarterback Devin Burns didn’t receive a scholarship offer during a visit. (Burns ended up at Maryland.)

But Richt said the issues were long resolved.

“We’ve always had a good relationship with those guys. When you do have an issue you talk about it, you do what you think is best for your program and then you move forward in a real positive way. So that’s what we did,” Richt said.

“There was not a big pow-wow or anything like that to set everything straight. I think everybody understood that even though mistakes were made that no one really tried to do anything intentional to hurt the other program in any way. So I think when they know where your heart is and your spirit is on both sides, it was easy to get back to work.”

Hoops inks another Kessler

Earlier in the day, head men’s basketball coach Mark Fox received a letter-of-intent from Houston Kessler, a forward who will round out the program’s 2012 class. Kessler is a familiar name at Georgia, as his father Chad played there from 1984-87, and his uncle Alec starred there from 1987-90.

Fox said Houston Kessler has a “possibility” of redshirting this season, which his uncle did as well.

“Alec didn’t have a Division I scholarship until the bitter end,” Fox said. “Chad did not redshirt and was still drafted. So the family history shows you a redshirt might be a real valuable thing for him.”

This and that

Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity, during a question-and-answer period, told the moderator the future football scheduling philosophy will be announced by Memorial Day. The future schedules would be effective for the next 12 years, McGarity added.

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier has proposed that SEC division champions be decided on division, and not SEC, records. That appears aimed at Georgia, which has had an easier schedule the past two years.

Richt doubts it would have a chance of being passed.

“There’s more than one way to do things. But I doubt very seriously that would change,” Richt said. “It could. And so some years you’ll think it’s a great idea and some years you won’t think it’s a great idea, I guess. But I doubt that would change.”

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