Rumors from Athens along with not-so-cryptic tweets from the man himself indicate that Georgia senior tailback Caleb King will be academically ineligible to play next year. Unless this is some elaborate in-joke pulled by King and some of his teammates, the news isn’t good.
Early session summer grades aren’t official yet, so there likely won’t be any imminent confirmation coming from the program.
UPDATE: Georgia has released a statement, with comment from Coach Richt, confirming that King is ineligible for the upcoming season.
Back in February, we discussed the issues facing Georgia’s top two returning tailbacks:
We’ve seen Georgia have to turn to the fullback position in recent years to find that “just in case” tailback. A rotation of Crowell, Malcome, and Thomas wouldn’t be a much better situation. Whether for injury, endurance, or production, Georgia has frequently had to dip deep into its stock of tailbacks. I’d much rather that next option be someone of King and/or Ealey’s experience and ability. The receiver position is going to be thin enough next year; culling the roster of tailbacks isn’t going to help much.
Ealey’s departure came as most expected. King was having a good spring and summer, but he left himself in a tremendous hole following fall semester. If he was ineligible for the bowl, that means he didn’t complete six hours in the fall. NCAA rules required that a player must complete 18 hours in the previous academic year to remain eligible for the next year. You can see that anyone who doesn’t meet the six hours requirement in December has quite an uphill fight in the spring and summer. Further, the NCAA requires a certain amount of progress towards a degree. Entering his fifth year, King would have had to complete 80% of his coursework towards a degree in order to be eligible.
There will be plenty of fan backlash at King for becoming ineligible, and it’s unbelievable that he’d let it get to this point when he’s on the cusp of a productive senior season. Georgia’s tailback situation is dire. The only returning experience is Carlton Thomas. Ken Malcome will get his first taste of action as a redshirt freshman, and I wouldn’t overlook him. And of course there is Isaiah Crowell. As if enough expectations weren’t already heaped on the true freshman, there are no alternatives now.
(No, Richard Samuel isn’t moving back.)
There’s no sugarcoating the depth situation and lack of experience. If you have to draw hope from somewhere, you can look at 2003. Cooper, Lumpkin, and Browning weren’t much more experienced than the current group. Lumpkin was rated highly – perhaps not to Crowell extremes, but he was still a 5* prospect in 2003 and the #2 back in the nation behind some guy named Bush. You can think of Malcome as similar to Cooper – down to the power running style. And there’s the waterbug, the smaller quick back who won’t run anyone over but who can make things happen with a little room. Thomas-up-the-middle is a favorite criticism of Georgia’s offense, but Carlton can still bring something to the position as Tyson Browning did.
Of course that 2003 team was helped by one of the nastier defenses I’ve seen at Georgia. The 2011 defense has a ways to go before it can start bailing out a struggling offense. Reports are positive about Crowell’s progress during summer, and hopefully he can have the kind of impact (and durability) such that the other two backs are more than enough for support roles. That’s best-case and almost the only case in which Georgia can have a potent running game. Is it likely? Anyone claiming to know at this point is selling you something. But as attrition continues along the offensive line, you’d feel a lot better with a few backs who knew the SEC ropes.
And somehow Janzen Jackson is eligible to play this fall.