Tarnished 'Tailback U'

ATHENS - My, what has happened to the pride and tradition that was once carried on the shoulders of the running back position at Georgia?

Herschel, Trippi, Hearst and Edwards helped establish the Bulldogs as one of the premier places to run the ball in college football.

But since Knowshon Moreno left for the NFL following the 2008 season, Caleb King, Washaun Ealey, Dontavius Jackson and Carlton Thomas combined to tarnish the image of the position. All of their careers were cut short, time spent in Athens muddled by arrests, academic troubles, suspensions and a lack of production.

With his early Friday morning arrest, sophomore Isaiah Crowell has taken that bad reputation to a new level.

"Things happen," Crowell said upon his release. "I don't really have a comment right now."

Yes, a lot of things have happened. Crowell, who came to Georgia a summer ago as one of the most hyped recruits in program history, has had issues from the beginning.

Rumors of poor work ethic and bad discipline circulated shortly after his arrival last June.

Injuries plagued his freshman season, including a major ankle sprain that effectively ended his year in November.

That was after he served a one-game suspension for reportedly failing a drug test and a one-quarter suspension related to academic reasons.

As he limped off the field, fans booed him in the Georgia Dome during the SEC Championship game, shedding light on how thin the Bulldog Nation's patience has become in dealing with troublesome tailbacks.

Given the short and impressively loaded history, Friday's arrest seemed inevitable.

And it begs the question: What has happened to the running back position at Georgia?

A tailback in the SEC must carry the load, expect to take immense punishment and avoid pitfalls.

That's the task on Saturdays in the fall.

For the past four years, Georgia's tailbacks, it seems, tackle themselves. They can't stay out of their own way.

"Tailback U' -- or so it used to be called. The Bulldogs haven't had a 1,000-yard rusher in a single season since Moreno in 2008.

In fact, Georgia hasn't had a running back play a full season since Moreno left, and injuries aren't the reason why.

Combined since 2008, the unit has accounted for four arrests, four dismissals/transfers (five if you count Ken Malcome leaving for a day last season), eight games missed due to suspension (plus Ealey's offseason ban in Feb. of 2011), one DUI and two felony gun charges.

Here's a look at the troubles for each individual:

Caleb King (signed, 2007: five-star, No. 4 RB in the nation):

July, 2011: Ruled academically ineligible prior to his senior season.
Oct. 11, 2010: Jailed for failing to appear in court on a traffic charge.

Total yards gained (redshirted, three seasons): 1,271.

Dontavius Jackson (signed 2008: four-star, No. 23 in the nation):

July, 2010: Transfers following an arrest for DUI, underage possession of alcohol, leaving the scene of an accident and other charges.

Total yards gained (redshirted, one season): 38.

Carlton Thomas (signed 2008: four-star, No. 15 in the nation):

March, 2012: Transfers from team.
Nov., 2011: Suspended for the third game of season for team rules violation.
November, 2011: Suspended one game for reportedly failing a drug test.
Offseason, 2011: Suspended for season-opener for violation of team rules.

Total yards gained (redshirted, three seasons): 725.

Washaun Ealey (signed 2009: four-star, No. 15 in the nation):

May, 2011: Transfers from the team following tumultuous offseason.
Feb. 2011: Suspended indefinitely after failing to report for a punishment run.
Aug. 27, 2010: Arrested on charges of misdemeanor hit and run and driving with a suspended license.

Total yards gained (two seasons): 1,528.

Ken Malcome (signed 2010: four-star, No. 25 in the nation):

Sept. 2011: Announces his intentions to transfer, but returns to the team days later.
November, 2011: Suspended one game for reportedly failing a drug test.

Total yards gained (redshirted, one season, still with team): 174.

Isaiah Crowell (signed 2011: five-star, No. 1 in the nation):

June, 29, 2012: Arrested for felony gun charges.
Nov., 2011: Suspended one game for reportedly failing a drug test.
Oct. 15, 2011: Held out of the first quarter against Vanderbilt stemming from a violation of team rules.

Total yards gained (one season, dismissed): 850.

In February, the Bulldogs repeated the norm. They signed two highly touted running backs in Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley. Perhaps Crowell's arrest will be a lesson to those young players - a lesson that hasn't been learned by a half-dozen players in the past 48 months.

Talent at the running back position has never been Georgia's problem. But talent and potential don't amount to much if the players can't stay enrolled in school.

'Tailback U' is tarnished -- until proven otherwise.

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