Crowell could be key to Georgia's success

One question Georgia fans want to know is how much heavily recruited running back Isaiah Crowell will factor into the Bulldogs' running game this season.

When Crowell -- ESPN's top-ranked running back last year -- signed with Georgia, it seemed to be only a matter of time before he would be the Bulldogs' featured back. And, with the departure of 2010 leading rushers Caleb King (academically ineligible) and Washaun Ealey (transfer), Crowell’s rise in Athens could come even quicker than expected.

What can Georgia expect? If Crowell is as productive as recent top-ranked rushing prospects, then the Bulldogs can hope to see a significant amount instant productivity.

In 2006, Oklahoma redshirted DeMarco Murray with Adrian Peterson still in Norman. In 2007, Murray finished second on the team in carries behind Allen Patrick, rushing for 764 yards and 13 touchdowns, this despite missing the final three games of the season with a dislocated kneecap.

Joe McKnight came to USC in 2007 with the expectation that he would resemble former Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush. As a true freshman McKnight finished third in carries, behind Chauncey Washington and Stafon Johnson, rushing for 540 yards and three touchdowns.

Jermie Calhoun is the lone true "bust" of late. After redshirting in 2008 at Oklahoma, Calhoun carried the ball 45 times in 2009 for 220 yards and one touchdown.

In 2009, Trent Richardson made a significant impact on the Crimson Tide’s national championship team which had Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. Richardson rushed for 749 yards and eight touchdowns on 144 carries. In the SEC Championship and BCS Championship games, Richardson combined to rush for 189 yards and two touchdowns.

Since 2006, Michael Dyer is the only top-ranked recruit to rush for 1,000 yards his freshman season. He was second on Auburn in carries (behind quarterback Cam Newton) with 182, and rushed for 1,093 yards and five touchdowns. He eclipsed the 100-yard mark four times, including a 143-yard effort in the BCS Championship Game against Oregon.

Although none was the primary ballcarrier, Murray, Richardson and Dyer each made a significant impact as freshmen.

One recent SEC freshman who saw a workload similar to what Crowell could expect was Knowshon Moreno. At Georgia in 2007, Moreno carried the ball 248 times for 1,334 yards and 14 touchdowns.

A similar result this season would go a long way in erasing the memory of a disastrous 6-7 season in 2010. Crowell will shoulder a heavier burden than his highly-touted predecessors as he tries to meet such high expectations.