All eyes on UGA's Crowell after Caleb King ruled ineligible

The tumultuous career of Caleb King has come to an end at Georgia, and the Isaiah Crowell Era officially begins.

King, a rising senior who was scheduled to start at tailback for the Bulldogs in the coming season, was ruled academically ineligible Friday, the last day of the summer semester at UGA.

King failed to meet the NCAA’s satisfactory-progress requirement. A fifth-year athlete such as King must have completed 80 percent of his degree requirement, or 97 hours of course credit, and maintain a 2.0 grade-point average to retain his eligibility.

“It’s unfortunate Caleb will not be with us this season,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said in a statement released by the school. “We wish him the best in whatever he decides to do; however, we have to move forward, and this will provide more opportunities for others to step up.”

King is the second tailback to leave Georgia since the end of spring practice. Washaun Ealey, who was the Bulldogs’ leading rusher last season with 811 yards and 11 touchdowns, was granted a release in May and transferred to Jacksonville (Ala.) State. Together King and Ealey accounted for 1,334 yards of offense and 13 touchdowns last season.

Attention now will focus on the highly touted freshman Crowell. A five-star prospect and a consensus choice as the top high school back in America, Crowell (5-foot-11, 210 pounds) averaged 11.7 yards per carry while rushing for 1,721 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior at Carver-Columbus last fall. Richt hinted that he had high expectations for Crowell after he signed with the Bulldogs in February.

“I wouldn’t be shocked to see him running that rock in the Dome against Boise State on the opening play if he does what he’s supposed to do,” Richt said on national signing day.

Georgia opens the 2011 season against a pair of likely top-10 teams in consecutive weeks: Boise State on Sept. 3 in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game at the Georgia Dome and South Carolina the next Saturday at Sanford Stadium.

The Bulldogs have two scholarship tailbacks left on their roster. Junior Carlton Thomas (5-foot-7, 170 pounds) played in 17 games last season, with one start, and rushed for 364 yards and two touchdowns. Ken “Boo” Malcome (6-0, 226) is a redshirt freshman from Southwest DeKalb High. Also, sophomore walk-on Brandon Harton was impressive in the spring game.

King did not return phone calls, texts or emails seeking comment. His next move is unclear. According to UGA’s news release, “King indicated he will consider the options available to him before making a decision on his future plans.”

If King continues his football career it will have to be at an NAIA school or as a professional, not at another NCAA school. The NFL, currently under lockout, has yet to conduct its supplemental draft, which usually is held in June. Canadian football remains an option.

King missed Georgia’s Liberty Bowl game against Central Florida in December because he had missed too many academic appointments. He was suspended for the Vanderbilt and Kentucky games last season following his arrest for failing to pay a speeding ticket in Walton County. He also missed games for ankle and hamstring injuries and a fractured jaw in 2009.

Over the past three seasons, King played in 29 games with 10 starts and had 255 rushes for 1,271 yards and 11 touchdowns. He missed 10 games because of injuries or suspensions.

King was a five-star prospect before breaking his leg his senior season at Greater Atlanta Christian School. He was a four-star recruit when he signed with Georgia in 2007 and redshirted while playing behind future NFL first-round draft choice Knowshon Moreno.