ATHENS -- Washaun Ealey’s mercurial career at Georgia has ended after two seasons.
The tailback from Stillmore is transferring, the team announced Monday evening. Ealey was granted an unconditional release.
A few days later, before a meeting in Columbus, Richt continued to show displeasure.
“The bottom line is we don’t have a tailback right now that deserves to start, in my opinion,” Richt said. “We don’t have a guy that has proven he can do all the things that we’re going to ask that guy to do. Washaun is one of them.”
Expanding on that a bit, here are my thoughts on the big, but not so surprising, news:
1. The reaction outside of Georgia, and inside of it, varied greatly. I guess that’s understandable if you haven’t been following Georgia football too closely the past few months. The rest of us had seen too many signs – the suspension in February, Richt’s statement in Augusta, the coaches’ heady talk about Isaiah Crowell.
I can see where others might see this as a bigger deal, just going by Ealey’s freshman year, and actually rushing for more yards as a sophomore. He finishes his Bulldog career with 1,528 rushing yards, 14 touchdowns and the single-game record for rushing touchdowns. But there were also the two critical fumbles last year, and even without the off-field troubles it was clear the coaches were unhappy with Ealey’s performance.
Remember, prior to Ealey’s arrest and suspension last August, running backs coach Bryan McClendon had announced that Caleb King would start the opener because of his pass-protection abilities.
Even after Ealey was reinstated before spring practice, a colleague and I agreed that the chances were still a bit better than 50-50 that Ealey would be gone by the end of the summer. Now it’s official, and we can move along.
2. If Isaiah Crowell hadn’t signed, would this have happened? Who knows. I think if you were ranking the tailbacks on talent alone, Ealey and Crowell would probably be at the top of the list. I’m not sure the coaches would feel good heading into next year with King, Ken Malcome and Carlton Thomas as their depth chart.
But Crowell did sign, so it’s academic. And the signing should have been a message to the returning tailbacks to fly right and work harder. King apparently got that message, but Ealey did not.
3. Transfers are a normal part of the college football offseason. But this year the Bulldogs seem to have had a mutual – or perhaps not mutual – parting of ways, with the aim of improving locker room chemistry. Marcus Dowtin and Nick Williams clearly weren’t happy with their playing time, and Dowtin didn’t endear himself to coaches by not informing them of last year’s run-in with the law back home in Maryland. Logan Gray apparently wasn’t totally happy either.
That doesn’t mean that there’s all of a sudden going to be a kum-ba-ya experience in the Georgia locker room that will lead the team back to glory. I suspect it works the other way: Losing creates chemistry issues, while winning makes everyone happy.
4. Some have asked what this means for Georgia in terms of scholarships, recruiting, etc. The Bulldogs weren’t really close to the 85 limit to begin with, so that’s not an issue. I’d say it’s a longshot that they try to recruit another tailback for the 2011 class, but they may try to sign more than one for 2012.
And in the short term, maybe now walk-on Brandon Harton will be more than a nice spring story.
5. The story of Ealey’s career at Georgia is one of unfulfilled potential. But the story of Ealey’s college career isn’t over yet. He has two years of eligibility, and no one questions his talent. It’s not certain where he’s headed yet – those Georgia Southern rumors have been out there forever, but Ealey certainly has the talent to play at the Division I-A level. (I still hate saying FBS.)
The transfer release is unconditional, so he could conceivably end up in the SEC. But he’d also have to sit out a season, and he turns 22 on June 1.
My personal interaction with Ealey was limited considering I only arrived in Athens last summer. But my interviews with him went relatively well – he’s no loquacious Aron White, for sure, but he was respectful. If I ran into him around town he’d give me a polite nod. And there was that story of Ealey and Mike Gilliard stopping to help the UGA bus driver who had an ice-bound accident.
So you certainly just hope that Ealey can get his life back on track, whether it’s through football or something else. He’s not going to fulfill his potential at Georgia, but he’s not a lost cause either.