September 8, 2011

A niche of his own

As he continues to cope with the responsibilities of being a high-profile running back on a major college team, freshman Isaiah Crowell continues to guard his words well.

Although much of that still has to do with being in the media spotlight, Crowell is proving to be the consummate team player, crediting teammates long before he'll acknowledge anything positive about himself.

That includes being drawn into the inevitable comparisons between himself and South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, who as a true freshman became a key fixture in the Gamecocks' march to the SEC East crown.

"I don't really get into too much about that," Crowell said. "He's a great running back I wish him the best. I'm just trying to help my team win."

That said, Crowell and Lattimore are no strangers to one another.

Like Crowell at Carver, Lattimore was a five-star performer, after a storybook prep career at Byrnes High, leading to a boatload of expectations from Gamecock fans.

To his credit, Lattimore delivered, rushing 249 times for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns, including a memorable effort against the Bulldogs, when he carried the football 37 times for 182 yards and two scores, leading the Gamecocks to their 17-6 win.

Crowell's eyes widened when asked if he'd enjoy having a similar breakout game.

"I'd like that," he said. "I'd like to get that many carries, but that's up to the coaches."

During SEC Media Days in July, Lattimore was asked what advice he would give Georgia's five-star performer.

"I would just tell him to be himself," Lattimore said. "If he will continue to be himself, like he was all through high school, then he will be successful with what he's doing."

Lattimore said he actually knows Crowell quite well and will be keeping tabs on the Bulldog freshman this year.

"Oh yeah, definitely," Lattimore said when asked if he was familiar with the Bulldog freshman. "I've seen him play in high school, I've watched his highlights and he was the No. 1 running back. He's going to be great. He's probably going to be the man at Georgia. He's going to be good."

Lattimore added that as a freshman he never felt the pressure to live up to his high school reputation and suggested that Crowell do the same.

"Not really," said Lattimore when asked if he felt pressure. "I did at one time but I stayed myself and stayed grounded. I was fine.

Crowell appears to be taking Lattimore's advice, who at least in public has tried to remain low-keyed.

His 15-carry, 60-yard effort against Boise State drew praise from teammates.

"He ran hard," said fellow running back Richard Samuel, who said Wednesday that he and Crowell are technically co-Nos. 1s. "He made some plays when there was really not much there, so I think he ran pretty well. He seemed pretty calm and cool. I rode with him to the game and he seemed to be real chill and excited to play."

Saturday against the 12th-ranked Gamecocks Crowell hopes to make a big home impression, not only on South Carolina but on a Bulldog Nation hungry to see their team get back on the winning track.

"I think the fans are going to be crazy," Crowell said. "I'm ready to play some football."

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at dash@ugasports.com.