December 17, 2011

Crowell mans up

He's been arguably the most scrutinized freshman in Mark Richt's 11 years as the Georgia head football coach.

Saturday, freshman running back Isaiah Crowell acknowledged he's still got some growing up to do.

"I think I need to be more accountable, just handle my responsibilities better," Crowell acknowledged during in an interview with beat writers after Saturday's practice.

For example:

"Just to follow my teammates and coaches; do what I'm supposed to do," Crowell said. "Different stuff."

It was a candid talk with the Columbus native, who along with Ken Malcome and Carlton Thomas was suspended for the game against New Mexico State for violating a team rule, which sources told UGASports had to do with a failed drug test.

That hasn't been all.

Crowell's also found himself the subject of scorn from some fans who have questioned his ability to play through seemingly minor injuries, to not getting along with teammates and other selfish acts, both on and off the practice field.

"I hear about it," Crowell said. "But I don't pay any attention to it."

Crowell adamantly refuted any speculation that he was looking to transfer from Georgia for any reason.

"I'm happy here," he said. "I know there are rumors about me wanting to transfer, but no. I never said that."

As to the silliest rumor he's heard about himself thus far, Crowell said "All of it."

Crowell said he still hasn't gotten used to living in this fishbowl he currently finds himself in.

"I want to be a regular person like anybody else, but you've got to watch what you do and be aware of everybody around you," he said. "I've got to worry about whether or not somebody is watching. It's not even anything bad. Even you there pumping gas, somebody might be riding by taking your picture."

Granted, Crowell isn't the first high-profile freshman to endure this type of attention for the Bulldogs.

Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno and A.J. Green did, too.

"I won't talk specifically to Isaiah's notoriety, but nowadays the way the recruiting process is guys become bigger than life before they even walk on the campus. That's a tough responsibility for anybody to try to live up to and to feel like you are just a regular guy, when all of a sudden every move you do make somebody has got a comment on it or an opinion about it. That's got to be tough," Richt said. "I've talked to Isaiah. I've talked to other guys like Stafford, Moreno and A.J. (Green) about learning to deal with the notoriety, the celebrity of it. I get to live with certain things, but you have to know that when you walk out the door to grab a bite to eat or something, more than likely someone is going to come up to you and speak to you and maybe want an autograph, a picture or something like that. It's just kind of part of the thing, and you just kind of get used to the fact that people watch you and are interested in what you say and do. That's tough on a kid that young."

But Crowell admits he's been partly to blame.

When he looks back at this season - which has seen him rush 182 times for a team-best 847 yards and two touchdowns - he knows there's more he could have done.

"There's been ups and downs," said Crowell, who added he's now 95 percent healthy and the sore ankle that plagued him in the SEC Championship is no longer a concern. "I'm going to remember the mistakes I've made, some of the good things I did and know that I've got to keep working hard to be the best teammate and best person I can be. I need to be more accountable and just work hard every day."

Apparently, there's still some proving Crowell needs to do.

Saturday, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said that Crowell is currently running at second team running back behind Malcome, followed by Brandon Harton while Carlton Thomas and Richard Samuel continue to recover from their respective injuries.

Georgia's backfield figures to get even more crowded next fall.

The Bulldogs already have a verbal commitment from Keith Marshall - the nation's top-ranked All-Purpose back according to Rivals, and are in contention to land both Stephenson High's Mike Davis and Tarboro, N.C.'s Todd Gurley.

Crowell indicated he would welcome them all.

"I'm happy to get another guy," Crowell said. "I thought we needed more running backs. I think that's a good thing."