Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"But can he pass block?"

I saw that question in the comments section on the Bulldog Blog today. It references, naturally, newly-anointed "Savior" of the program, Isaiah Crowell.

First off, you'll notice I've placed "savior" in quotation marks. The reason for this is simple. I don't believe he makes or breaks our football team. I am a firm believer that a team is a TEAM first, and though stars may help the team reach its highest potential, no one player elevates a program from the dirt to the sky. I'm sorry, it just doesn't happen. For all the credit everyone wants to give Marcus Lattimore, that team has been getting consistently better for years, and he may have been the final piece of the puzzle. Cam Newton was a HUGE addition at Auburn...but without excellent play by Nick Fairley and Michael Dyer, I don't know that they win the title. Do I think Crowell has the potential to be a huge part of UGA and any success we may achieve in 2011? Yes. Do I think we should all be pinning all our hopes on him? Hell no.

Here's why:

As a sophomore at UGA, I was getting ready for my first spring with the team. We warmed up before our first scrimmage, stretched, and did some positional drills. On one particular drill, I fired off the line and locked out the Guard in front of me, Randal Kendrick. As I did, Josh Mallard did the same against center Curt McGill. Josh fought through Curt, slinging him to his right....directly into my knee. The pop was audible, and I hit the dirt, my MCL having suffered a grade 2 tear.

I wouldn't practice for the remainder of spring training.

Now, my injury was no big loss to the football team. They were suddenly a man short on scout-team defense for the spring, but I doubt it cost us any games in the fall. Still, I share this anecdote for one simple reason. In a single act on the most routine of drills, a player can be hurt and lose weeks of competition.

In no way to expect this to happen to Crowell....but it can. I am not saying this to put that kind of fear into anyone's mind. What I'm telling you is, we gotta wait and see. I watched Crowell beat my own LaGrange Grangers on ESPN in September. He looked incredible. Then again, the defensive linemen at LaGrange are smaller than some D-1 DBs.

All of that being said, let me also offer this:

If he's healthy, this kid will be playing. I don't care whether he can pass-block or not. In the past, that has been a reason why one player or another may not have played as immediately as expected. BUT, if you remember, that was because the HB position was hotly contested by multiple players, and the coaches wanted the best all-round back in there. How much difference, truly, is there between King and Ealy? I pose that question simply because I believe that if Crowell is far-and-away a better RUNNER than anyone we have, he'll be carrying the ball.

"But Dukes! Our Play Action game is DEPENDENT upon the defense believing the guy in the backfield will carry the ball. If we start pulling Crowell on passing plays, the defense will KNOW!"

Ok, fair point. However, it's not like we don't have other backs who CAN run the ball. All you're really saying is that when King or Ealy is in, the defense wouldn't bite on a fake....which could actually open running lanes for them in those situations if they were reading pass-all-the-way. Also, Crowell is a good out-of-the-backfield receiver....something that was sorely lacking in last year's offense. So, I highly doubt Crowell will come out in all passing situations.

In fact, there is something to be said for what could become a chip-on-the-shoulder attitude of, "Guess what...We're running straight at you. Deal with it." I like deception as much as the next guy, but I'm also a big fan of just being good at the things you're good at...and then crushing people with it. Now, in order to do that, we will need some greatly improved offensive line play. But, just as offensive lines can make runningbacks better, runningbacks can make offensive lines better. As an offensive lineman, it gives you a great amount of confidence to know that if that DE beats you to the outside, and you just keep riding him that way, the RB will have good enough vision to see his cut-back lane. Crowell has pretty great vision.

Anyway, ultimately, I think he plays right away - but only if he's willing to get in and earn it. Neither of the starting tailbacks is going to just roll over for this kid, and RFr Boo Malcome probably isn't buying into the hype either. So now, the question becomes...will Crowell actually elevate the play of ALL RBs? That's what truly elite players do.

Go Dawgs.


Stephen said...

that last statement sums it all well, although i agree with your entire post.

will he elevate the play of the others, "thats what elite players do" ..that my friend is where things get better. Period.

Great post, I always enjoy your thoughts

Andy Coleman said...

Great post. I am loving the Crowell signing, but I still think Ealey has a little something extra he might bring to the table next season. This smack in the face reality check may bring it out in him...or King for that matter.