Much ballyhooed recruit Isaiah Crowell was dismissed from the Georgia football team on Friday after an arrest for felony weapon possession. Felony charges could bring much more harsh consequences for Crowell beyond his mere walking papers from the UGa program. Serious penalties including possible jail time await Crowell.
Per the above linked Ledger-Inquirer story:
Crowell was arrested on charges of carrying a weapon in a school zone and having an altered ID mark, both felonies. He also was booked on a misdemeanor charge of possessing/carrying a concealed weapon. Having a gun in a school zone brings a sentence of two to five years in jail, according to Georgia sentencing guidelines, while altering the serial numbers on a gun is anywhere from one year to five years.
Why a former five star prospect and vital cog to a potential BCS championship contender would put himself in such a position is perplexing. Georgia SEC rival Auburn experienced tragedy less than a month ago, proving bad things happen when college athletes and guns mix. That Crowell avoided a situation more dire is a blessing, but a young life that had so much potential taking this unnecessary detour is serious; much more serious than the football implications his departure entail.
And there are such implications for Mark Richt to address.
Crowell endured criticism in his freshman campaign, proving just how high the standards of SEC fans and pundits are — after all, Crowell was named the conference’s Freshman of the Year with 850 yards and five touchdowns rushing. He was thrust into a contributing role perhaps prematurely, and ironically enough because of another dismissal.
Richt and Washaun Ealey parted ways in the winter of 2011. The Dawgs moved on with Crowell, Carlton Thomas, Brandon Harton and Richard Samuel IV. None averaged more than 4.9 yards per carry. Ealey excelled at Jacksonville State with 1082 yards and eight touchdowns.
The proposition Richt faces of replacing his No. 1 back a second consecutive season could leave the Bulldogs exactly where they were the first time, as a team with a great defense, a talented quarterback and lacking run game punch.
Harton and Ken Malcome were two contributors to the running back-by-committee offensive coordinator Mike Bobo employed, though between them have fewer than 100 combined carries. Perhaps four-star recruit Todd Gurley is ready to step into the pressure cooker. But as Crowell’s performance proved, expectation of an SEC championship is a hefty weight for a true freshman to carry.
Crowell’s void is the most enduring, but it’s hardly the only Richt has to address when UGa. kicks off the season against Buffalo. Defensive starters Alec Ogletree and Bacarri Rambo are out to begin 2012. The latter was given a four-game suspension for failing a drug test, after serving a one-game suspension for a similar offense last season.
The mounting off-field troubles at Georgia are well known — so much so that Richt rival head coach Steve Spurrier quipped his South Carolina Gamecocks playing UGa. early in the season meant drawing a depleted opponent.
“Lack of institutional control” is an NCAA term that became a prominent part of the football lexicon when USC was given the most severe sanctions since Auburn in the mid-1990s. Would Georgia’s recurring issues qualify as a lack of institutional control?
Richt is generally decisive in action, which might actually draw more negative attention on his program. Urban Meyer has had some criticism lobbed his way for the ambiguous penalties given to Jake Stoneburner and Jack Mewhort; Brian Kelly was lambasted for retaining star wide receiver Michael Floyd.
SEC programs other than Georgia have had their off-field problems. Reigning conference champion LSU was deluged with problems last season, from Jordan Jefferson’s barroom brawl last summer, to the mid-season substance suspensions of Tyrann Mathieu and Spencer Ware. The aforementioned Meyer faced his share of troubles while at Florida, including Chris Rainey’s threatening text message sent to a girlfriend in 2010.
So Georgia’s not alone. Of course, such a litany of football player transgressions points to something deeper, and more troubling. NFL rookies are attending a symposium on conduct this week; perhaps college football is in need of a similar program before youngsters arrive on campus.