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Tag:Aaron Murray
Posted on: June 3, 2011 2:45 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 9:54 am
 

CBS College Football 100, No. 37: Isaiah Crowell

A special weekend breakout entry for the CBSSports.com College Football 100. You can read the rest of Nos. 40-31 here.

37. ISAIAH CROWELL, running back, Georgia.



Entering 2010, you could find the occasional pundit (and more than the occasional fan) who'd tell you Mark Richt was on the hot seat. Clearly, they were a year early; any SEC coach (Vanderbilt's excepted) who's legitimately on the hot seat doesn't go 6-7 with losses to a miserable Colorado team and a Conference USA opponent and retain his job. Richt did.

But if he wasn't on the hot seat then, another year spent wallowing in mediocrity, another year losing to Florida, another year spent saying "wait 'til next year" has assured that Richt is most definitely on the hot seat now. Any fewer than, say, nine wins and at least a runner-up finish in the SEC East, and there's no way even a measured, patient program like Georgia will be able to bring him back. And so it's only natural that with his job in jeopardy like never before, Richt is spearheading his team's turnaround with ... a freshman?

Almost: freshmen, if we're being technical, the so-called "Dream Team" of primarily in-state prospects that gave Richt his strongest recruiting class in years and seemed to singlehandedly restore momentum to the program. But even the five-star likes of defensive end Ray Drew and defensive back Malcolm Mitchell won't be expected to become the centerpieces of the Bulldog defense overnight. Isaiah Crowell, though? No, he's not even on campus yet. But the true freshman running back from Columbus (Ga.) is no doubt already the foundation on which much of Richt's offensive plans are being laid.

Just ask him:
“Heavily,” Richt said on ESPNU when asked how Crowell would be used next fall. “I expect him to come right in and compete right away. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him running that rock in the dome against Boise State on the opening play if he does what he’s supposed to do.”
For a publicly conservative-by-nature coach like Richt, an admission like that is tantamount to declaring Crowell the unquestioned starter ... and that was on Signing Day. Clearly, Richt believes Crowell to be the game-changer at tailback the Bulldogs haven't had since Knowshon Moreno departed, and he expects him to be that player from Day 1.

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But Richt almost has no choice to believe that, because the Bulldog offense needs him to be that player from Day 1. Aaron Murray put together a sensational freshman season at quarterback, but last season proved there's only so much he can do (even with the likes of A.J. Green around) without playmaking help elsewhere at the skill position. And with Green gone, the offensive line talented but in flux, the best remaining receiving target tight end Orson Charles, and Washaun Ealey finally exiled, Crowell looks to be far-and-away Murray's best bet to get that help. He might even be his only bet.

There's plenty of evidence, though, that Crowell is a bet that'll pay off in spades. Like current Heisman candidates Trent Richardson and Marcus Lattimore, Crowell arrives at Georgia not only with consensus five-star approval from the recruiting gurus but the honor of being the most sought-after SEC running back in his class. (Alabama and Auburn both fought tooth-and-nail for Crowell, to no avail.) At 5'11" and a solidly-built 210 pounds, Crowell already has the frame to deliver 25 carries a game and the power and speed to make those carries count.

In short, Crowell has both the opportunity and the talent to do for the Bulldogs exactly what Lattimore did for South Carolina last season. If he lives up to the hype, there's no reason Richt can't ride him right past a forgiving schedule (with no Alabama, LSU or Arkansas out of the West and no road game more difficult than Tennessee) all the way to Atlanta. If he doesn't? Most likely, someone other than Richt is patrolling the Bulldogs' sideline in 2012.

The guess here is that Crowell delivers, and the "Dream Team" momentum carries Richt into 2012 and beyond. But either way, Crowell enters 2011 as the most important true freshman in the SEC ... and possibly the country.

Posted on: April 27, 2011 5:49 pm
 

What I Learned This Spring: SEC East

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

With all six spring games completed, we wrap up spring practice in the SEC East, team by team. In alphabetical order:


FLORIDA: When spring began, we said the Gators might have the most interesting offense in the country. Urban Meyer's former spread-option death machine, destroyed and rebuilt from the ground up, by none other than Charlie Weis, in the image of the steady no-frills pro-style attacks Will Muschamp saw work for old boss Nick Saban, as piloted by 2011-or-bust quarterback John Brantley? That's quite the storyline they've got going there.

But the Gators will have to hope it's a story that will be rewritten come the fall. While no one was expecting the offense to look like Weis's old New England Patriot attacks after three weeks of practice, no one was expecting it to put on a 13-10 spring game universally panned as a hideous eyesore, either. Brantley went an ugly 4-of-14 after missing his first six passes, the leading rusher was a walk-on defensive back, and the entire offensive output for the game amounted to 340 yards.

Much of that can be pinned on a wicked rash of injuries that took out most of the offensive line, an entire stable of running backs, multiple receivers, etc.; encouragingly, much of it can also be pinned on a rampaging defensive line led by Sharrif Floyd, Dominique Easley and Ronald Powell, all members of Meyer's loaded 2010 class and all looking posied to make good on their five-star hype. But the bottom line is that much of it can also be pinned squarely on Brantley, who Muschamp and his other coaches universally lauded for an excellent spring but who showed little of that alleged improvement when playing in public.

Does it matter? Give him a solid summer and a solid fall camp, and it may not. But until Brantley proves he's something other than what he's appeared to be since the moment Tim Tebow left -- in over his head -- skepticism is in order.

GEORGIA: The biggest question entering the most critical spring of Mark Richt's spring tenure concerned the Bulldogs' biggest players: could their offensive line bounce back? When you have Aaron Murray, Orson Charles, a fleet of talented (if still unproven) receivers, and eventually Isaiah Crowell, if you have a line, you're going to have a heck of an offense.

There was good news and bad news on that front, the latter a devastating torn ACL suffered by fifth-senior and projected starting tackle Trinton Sturdivant. But there were positives, too, namely a terrific spring from potential All-SEC  center Ben Jones and guard-to-tackle position switch Cordy Glenn. G-day primary tailbacks Ken Malcome and Caleb King combined for 69 yards on 12 carries, a not-so-shabby 5.8 yards per-carry. Overall, the line was impressive enough this spring that senior Justin Anderson -- billed as a potential starter on the OL -- has been moved to defense.

The Dawgs had themselves a fine spring on the defensive front as well, with newly bulked-up nose tackle Kwame Geathers the talk of the Bulldogs' spring camp and converted safety Alec Ogletree providing a big boost the linebacking corps. The secondary is unsettled and one of those aforementioned receivers needs to emerge as a go-to target for Murray, but if the improvements in the front seven and offensive line aren't mirages, the Bulldogs wil be back in the thick of the East race all the same.

KENTUCKY: Consider it a successful second spring for Joker Phillips and the Wildcats. We noted that with nearly all of the major players from 2010's surprisingly effective Wildcat passing game gone, Phillips would want to make rebuilding that passing attack around junior quarterback Morgan Newton priority No. 1 in spring camp. And though we'll have to wait until fall to see the finished results, for now it looks like Mission Accomplished: Newton had a terrific spring, capped by a 23-of-44, 256-yard, three-touchdown performance in the Wildcats' Blue-White Game.

Things weren't perfect: the Wildcat receivers were plagued by drops, and a defense still adjusting to new co-coordinator Rick Minter's aggressive schemes paired several big plays with several breakdowns. But with Newton cementing himself as a reliable option under center and a veteran line paving the way for new tailback Raymond Sanders to average better than 7 yards a carry, there's far more optimism for the Wildcat offense coming out of spring than going in.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Whatever storyline you might have constructed ahead of time for the Gamecocks' spring, it was always going to overshadowed by the continuing Stephen Garcia circus. Until Carolina receives a definitive word one way or the other on Garcia's return (though as we wrote earlier today, that return seems likely), the team is going to be in something close to suspended football animation.  The lack of developments aside from Garcia was only enhanced by the fact that so many of Carolina's key players -- Marcus Lattimore, Alshon Jeffery, Stephon Gilmore, an offensive line with four returning starters -- are known commodities.

That said, the Garnet-Black Game showed that if Garcia doesn't come back, the Gamecocks won't be totally lost at quarterback. Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson combined to go a productive 23-of-40 for 344 yards (though Thompson threw a pair of picks), and on an offense with weapons like Lattimore, Jeffery, and tailback Kenny Miles (43 yards on just 6 carries in the spring game), "productive" should be enough.

The downside: those passing numbers came against a Gamecock secondary that got routinely torched in 2010 (FBS 97th in pass defense). Garcia or no Garcia, more improvement in that secondary will be necessary to take Carolina back to Atlanta.

TENNESSEE: Entering spring, the road to improvement for the Volunteers was clear: get stronger, more physical, better along each line of scrimmage, then let the Vols' cadre of up-and-coming skill position stars -- led by sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray -- do the rest.

The Vols made plenty of headway on the first part of that equation; the White team earned a dominant victory over the more starter-heavy Orange in the Vol spring game thanks in no small part to a bruising run game led by second-string tailback Raijon Neal; defensive linemen on both squads were able to get consistent quarterback pressure; and offensive lineman Alex Bullard and defensive tackle Daniel Hood won the team's top awards for spring performance. Both lines remain so young that there's still a long way to go to SEC dominance, but it seems unlikely they'll be pushed around the way they were at times in 2010, either.

But as for the other part of the equation, stay tuned. Bray went a miserable 5-for-30 quarterbacking the defeated Orange side, with Derek Dooley suggesting afterwards that perhaps Bray had been overconfident. Bray is expected to take a major step forward in his first full season as the Vols' starter, but if that step winds up as minor as the spring game proposes it might be, all the line improvement in the world won't push the Vols back into relevance in the SEC East.

VANDERBILT: When you finished last season dead last in the conference in both total offense and total defense -- and you are Vanderbilt -- any kind of improvement in any area will be music to new coach James Franklin's ears. But fortunately for the 'Dores, they saw some green shoots in two positions that have been partocularly troublesome the past few seasons.

One is quarterback , where previously scattershot senior Larry Smith completed 16-of-26 for 233 yards and a touchdown, leading his Black side to a 19-7 win over the Gold. The other is the defensive line , where defensive tackle Colt Nichter recorded a pair of sacks and defensive end Kyle Woestmann collected a sack and an interception. But when you're Vandy, you'll take whatever you can get.

"The big thing," Franklin said, "is that we stayed healthy."

For the same review of the SEC West, click here.

Posted on: April 11, 2011 12:30 pm
Edited on: April 11, 2011 12:52 pm
 

UGA's Sturdivant tears ACL for third time

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Football is a cruel game. And though it is occasionally, it's not often more cruel than it has been to Georgia  senior offensive tackle Trinton Sturdivant.

Sturdivant burst on to the scene as a true freshman in 2007, starting every game for the Bulldogs at left tackle to earn freshman All-SEC honors and a handful of freshman All-America nods. But in 2008, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament and missed the entire season. In 2009, he started the Bulldogs' season opener against Oklahoma State and tore another ACL, ending his season again. He battled back to start seven games in 2010, and entering Saturday's scrimmage had been penciled in -- though it was more like ink -- for one of Georgia's two starting tackle spots.

That won't happen. Sturdivant left the scrimmage  having torn his third ACL in four years . Per Georgia head athletic trainer Ron Courson, Sturdivant will have surgery this week to repair the ligament. He is expected to miss the entire 2011 season.

The blow is a severe one for the Georgia offensive line, a group that underachieved substantially last season, is working for a new position coach in Will Friend, and will now have to replace Sturdivant with either a converted guard or a player of limited (if any) SEC experience. If no unit on the team was as important this spring  as the offensive line, it's possible no injury aside from one to Aaron Murray could hit them as hard as this one.

But the blow is no doubt even more savage for Sturdivant personally. He had previously discussed his furstration with having to undergo rehab a second time after his second tear, and had considered leaping to the NFL a year early while he could. With his injury history, a sixth year of eligibilty is a certainty if he wants it, but there's a lor of arduous rehabbing work and consideration to be done before that bridge is crossed.

If Sturdivant does elect to return to the Sanford Stadium field,  we'll be wishing him nothing but the best. Football may be cruel, but there are times it  seems to be too cruel, and this is one of those times.



Posted on: April 4, 2011 11:47 am
 

Jefferson, Lee still atop LSU depth chart

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

We noted in our LSU Spring Practice Primer that more than a few Tiger fans were hoping for big things, big immediate things, from JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger. With Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee's results the previous three seasons ranging from "decent" to (most often) "mediocre" to "flat embarrassing," you could hardly blame them for crossing their fingers that Mettenberger's blue-chip arm and practice battles with Aaron Murray at Georgia would give their Tigers the consistent passing attack they've craved ever since the departure of Matt Flynn.

As it stands today, though, those fans aren't going to get their wish. In fact, unless Mettenberger finishes spring with a huge flourish, their wish is going to enter fall camp still stuck at third-string, according to Les Miles:
While Jefferson seems to be the clear-cut starter, Miles said senior-to-be Jarrett Lee has the edge on junior college transfer Zach Mettenberger for the backup spot.

“Mettenberger has a very strong arm and makes a lot of nice throws and is really improving,” he said. “I think Jarrett Lee has a very distinct advantage over the time he’s been in the system. And he throws the ball very well, so I think Mettenberger has some time, he’s taking advantage of his coaching. But I think, it’s currently Jefferson and Lee and then Mettenberger.”

So for the fans in question, that's the bad news. And that the ever-wobbly Lee remains one injury away from full-time duty again is probably the worse news.

But there's good news, too, namely that Jefferson has been impressive enough to end the supposed quarterback battle even before it really began. Miles said the senior was making "much better decisions" and threw four touchdown passes in Saturday's scrimmage. If that's the case, it's possible Jefferson's MVP performance in the Cotton Bowl thrashing of Texas A&M was a turning point rather than a one-off blip.

And if that's the case, the Bayou Bengals could very well make good on the championship expectations that have been percolating ever since the 2010 season ended. Even if Mettenberger's initial season in Baton Rouge proves to be more hype than substance, assuming Jefferson's continuing offseason momentum pays dividends on the field, LSU's quarterbacking glass is still more full than empty.

Posted on: March 11, 2011 9:05 am
Edited on: March 11, 2011 9:08 am
 

Spring Practice Primer: LSU

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football  will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Here's a look at LSU, who begins spring practice today.

Spring Practice Question: Can anyone be the quarterback LSU needs to win a championship?

As soon as the dust settled on LSU's comprehensive demolition of Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, the stakes for 2011 were set for Les Miles and Co.: it's some form of championship or bust.

The Bayou Bengals have been playing second fiddle and even third fiddle for three straight seasons, not only missing out on those three SEC West titles but missing by a combined ten games. Not only has LSU not gone to Atlanta since their magical run of 2007, they haven't even come close, as their divisional rivals at Alabama and Auburn have barreled their way to national titles. There's a reason (other than his clock management) Miles has somehow ended up in the annual "hot seat" chatter even as he's won 78 percent of his games at LSU.

There's a lot of reasons to think that changes this year. Defensive coordinator John Chavis has taken the Tigers to finishes of 26th and 12th in the nation in total defense his two seasons in Baton Rouge; even without Patrick Peterson, Drake Nevis and the like, fearsome young defenders like end Sam Montgomery and defensive back Tyrann Mathieu should have his unit among the nation's best again. Jumbo senior guards Will Blackwell and Josh Dworaczyk should pave the way for a powerful running game, particularly if rising sophomore running back Spencer Ware can prove his explosive Cotton Bowl performance (102 yards on 10 carries) wasn't a fluke. With former five-star recruits Rueben Randle and Russell Shepard coming into their own as juniors, receiving talent is no problem.

So there's just one question: what's going to happen at quarterback?

OK, two questions, the first being who is going to be the quarterback; expect the overwhelming majority of headlines coming out of the Tigers' spring camp to breathlessly detail the three-way battle between incumbent Jordan Jefferson, his longtime competitor Jarrett Lee, and JUCO-by-way-Georgia- dismissal transfer Zach Mettenberger. It's Mettenberger who represents maybe the most intriguing option , coming in with NFL-quality size (6'5", 247 pounds), a 32-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio at Butler County (Kan.) Community College, and the endorsement that comes with having battled Aaron Murray tooth-and-nail for the Bulldogs' backup quarterback job in 2009. Given the way Lee flailed his way through his 16-interception 2008 season and the roller coaster ride Jefferson's career has followed the past two seasons, you'll forgive LSU fans for hoping Mettenberger wins the job.

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But what's more important than who emerges from the scrum is how that player -- or players -- performs. If spring practice shows that the Tigers have three quality options available at quarterback -- and given all three's combination of experience and talent, and the fresh start offered by the arrival of Steve Kragthorpe as offensive coordinator, that's a distinct possibility -- then the team will be poised to potentially make good on what may be preseason SEC title projections. Jefferson, Mettenberger, or Lee, what's critical for LSU is that someone comes out of spring practice having cemented himself as an above-average SEC quarterback.

Of course, the possibility also exists that all three will show themselves to be lacking. Jefferson also had an outstanding Cotton Bowl but over the course of his two seasons has been entirely less than reliable; Lee has been Jefferson's backup for those two seasons; and for all his salivating potential, Mettenberger has yet to take a snap at the SEC level. If that's the case, well, we've seen already these past three seasons what happens when LSU has everything but a quarterback.

And it's a lot closer to bust than championship.



Posted on: March 10, 2011 1:42 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Georgia

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football  will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Georgia , who begins spring practice today.


Spring Practice Question: Is the Bulldog offense ready to make a push up front?


Entering 2010, the biggest reason Georgia was supposed to be the biggest challenger to two-time defending SEC East champion (and heavy 2010 favorite) Florida was, not coincidentally, their biggest players. Led by veterans like bookend senior tackles Clint Boling and Josh Davis, the Bulldogs boasted the nation's most experienced offensive line . With highly-regarded (and well-compensated) OL coach Stacy Searels leading the unit, the line was believed to be the SEC's best.

Entering 2011, things are very, very different. That line fell far short of the advance hype, with the Bulldogs finishing a disappointing 10th in the SEC in rushing (ahead of only Vanderbilt and Tennessee), doing nothing special in pass protection, and even seeing Searels juggle the lineup late in the year. Though the line wasn't the only problem, it also did precious little to help as Georgia scored 12 points or fewer three times (all losses) and finished a mediocre 56th in the country in total offense. Following the disappointment, Boling, Davis, Trinton Sturdivant (who eventually replaced Davis) and guard Chris Davis all graduated. Searels accepted the same position at Texas. And the advance hype will almost certainly move on to some other team this offseason.

But that doesn't mean it's too late for the Georgia line to get Mark Richt to another SEC title game. For starters, there's still plenty of talent on hand even after the departures, starting with senior center Ben Jones (pictured, a 2009 All-SEC pick before being overlooked last year), 325-pound senior guard Cordy Glenn, and junior guard Kenarious Gates, another player who ascended to the starting lineup late in the year. After seemingly tuning out Searels last year, the Bulldogs will have a new voice in their ears in new coach Will Friend. And maybe most importantly of all, the remaining Bulldogs will have the sting of last year's failures -- rather than an offseason of praise -- fueling them. If Georgia's spring practice shows that the line is enjoying the proverbial addition by subtraction and looks poised to make good on the hype a year late, the rest of the SEC should look out.

Previous Spring Primers
Why? Because if the Dawg line falls into place, everything else on the offense should, too. Aaron Murray was arguably the nation's best freshman quarterback in 2010 and could be the SEC's best signal-caller as a redshirt sophomore. Even with A.J. Green and Kris Durham gone, players like Tavarres King and Marlon Brown, and Rantavious Wooten -- not to mention future NFL tight end Orson Charles -- give the Bulldog receiving corps plenty of potential. And maybe most importantly of all, though he won't be in for spring, incoming tailback recruit Isaiah Crowell could deliver a Marcus Lattimore- like impact for an offense that spent 2010 crying out for a game-changer in the backfield.

Add all of that to a defense that seems certain to improve in the second year of Todd Grantham's 3-4 scheme, in a division that's as wide open as any in the SEC's recent memory, and the tools are there for Richt to forge a championship season out of even the miserable ashes of 6-7. But they won't do much good without a huge step forward from the offensive line, and that's where Bulldog fans' primary focus ought to be this spring.

Posted on: February 21, 2011 1:55 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2011 5:03 pm
 

Aaron Murray sprains ankle

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

UPDATE 4:55 p.m. EST: Georgia has issued its official statement on the Aaron Murray injury, and the verdict is: a sprained ankle, suffered during a pick-up soccer game. X-rays on the ankle were negative and Murray is not expected to miss any of the Bulldogs' spring practice. There is, as the saying goes, nothing to see here, other than a potential team policy change regarding the other kind of football.

Someone at the Red and Black has some explaining to do, it sounds like.

-------------------------

From earlier today:

It's been a positive offseason so far for Georgia, who saw their "Dream Team" concept take off on the recruiting trail, opened a dazzling new training facility, and have filled their position coaching vacancies in impressive fashion . But those positive vibes have come to an abrupt halt today with this report that starting quarterback Aaron Murray has suffered a major ankle injury.

According to UGA student newspaper The Red and Black, Murray broke his ankle in two separate places while participating in a "team activity" Saturday afternoon. Though the report has yet to be confirmed by university officials (the Red and Black reports that a confirmation or denial could come as soon as this afternoon), Murray was spotted using a pair of crutches on campus Monday.

If the report is accurate -- and Georgia legend/current radio personality David Pollack has already taken to Twitter to suggest it's not -- Murray will certainly miss Georgia's spring practice, casting the spotlight on early-enrolled true freshman Christian LeMay and sophomore Hutson Mason.

It seems highly unlikely -- ankle broken or not -- that Murray will miss any time in the fall. But with Mark Richt's job legitimately in the balance after their 6-7 disaster of a year ago, the Bulldogs can ill afford to lose any preparation time with the freshman All-American who will no doubt be the centerpiece of Mike Bobo's offense in 2011.

UPDATE 2:14 p.m. EST: Multiple other media sources on the Georgia beat are saying that Murray has sustained an injury of some kind, likely to his foot, but that's it's not a broken ankle and that Murray could still participate in most of spring practice. At this point, it seems somewhat unlikely the Red and Black report is entirely accurate.


Posted on: February 8, 2011 10:22 am
Edited on: February 8, 2011 11:08 am
 

UGA tailback Washaun Ealey suspended

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

When you're a starting running back whose team has just signed their highest-profile running back recruit in years and whose coach has already discussed naming said recruit the 2011 opening day starter, it's probably not the best idea to land in hot water with that coach before spring camp even opens. But that hasn't stopped Georgia junior tailback Washaun Ealey from finding himself suspended by Mark Richt for the second time in less than eight months.

With rumors swirling over the past 48 hours, reports this morning have confirmed that Ealey has been indefinitely suspended from all team activities. The suspension reportedly comes after Ealey failed to show for a "punishment run" last week, and Ealey has now confirmed the suspension to the Macon Telegraph's Seth Emerson:



As indicated, Ealey's future status with the team remains undetermined. After first his suspension last August following his arrest for a hit-and-run accident and driving with a suspended license, and then whatever violation of team rules led to the "punishment run" in the first place, it's highly possible Ealey has already run out of strikes.

If he hasn't, the Bulldogs will return their leading rusher of each of the past two seasons and boast one more sturdy (if not overly explosive) option in their efforts to take the pressure off of sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray. If he has, well, there's a reason Richt didn't even wait until after Signing Day lay out such high expectations for Isaiah Crowell, isn't there?

UPDATE: A Georgia official confirms that Ealey is still a member of the Bulldogs .
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com