ATHENS, Ga. — Isaiah Crowell is back in the Georgia lineup.
Now, the freshman has to show he can stay there.
Crowell, who leads the No. 14 Bulldogs and ranks fifth in the Southeastern Conference with 689 yards rushing, has largely lived up to the hype when he’s on the field. But disciplinary problems have marred his debut season. Last week, he and two other tailbacks had to sit out a victory over New Mexico State after reportedly failing drug tests.
“When you take away playing time, it hits a guy hard,” senior tight end Aron White said Tuesday.
“That can bring you back to Earth in an instant.”
Crowell will start Saturday’s crucial game against No. 24 Auburn, which could bring the Bulldogs a step closer to clinching a spot in the SEC Championship game. The Bulldogs (7-2, 4-2) have won seven in a row to take over first place in the East, and they can wrap up the division title by winning their next two games against Auburn (6-3, 4-2) and Kentucky.
There’s no doubt Crowell has been a spark to the Georgia offense, but his actions away from the public eye have been troubling.
He was held out of the first quarter against Vanderbilt, apparently for some sort of violation of team rules then he failed a drug test that resulted in an automatic one-game suspension under athletic department rules.
Crowell wouldn’t discuss specifics of his case, but he apologized to “my family, fans and the Bulldog nation.”
“I made a mistake and it will never happen again,” he said. “I want to prove to the fans that they can trust me.”
Coach Mark Richt said he’s confident that Crowell has learned a valuable lesson for all his mistakes.
“It’s hard to be a true freshman in major college football,” Richt said. “… You’re competing at a level that you’ve never competed at before. You’re learning things that you’ve never learned before. You’re being pushed by your coaches. You’re being pushed to your limits because now there’s a lot of great athletes out on the field compared to maybe what it was like in high school.”