By now, word of Caleb King's ineligibility has made its way across from the rumor mill to the blogosphere and the sports pages before finally settling and leaving a pit in the stomach of Georgia Bulldog fans around the country. While Caleb King's career never quite panned out for the Dawgs the way so many had hoped, I have no doubt that King's status as the most seasoned man in the backfield will be missed.
Looking back, Caleb King's greatest contribution to the Georgia Football program might have actually come while he was still in high school. Following his impressive sophomore season with the powerhouse Parkview Panthers, King attended a summer camp in Athens.
King had recently been dubbed the top Georgia recruit in the 2007 recruiting class and many had him as the No. 1 running back in the nation and a top-five overall prospect. While at the camp, King was impressive and Coach Mark Richt and his staff immediately bought into the hype. However, one rising senior continually went toe-to-toe with King and more often than not this less heralded but older player came out on top.
Perhaps this camp was a foreshadowing of King's inability to compete at the level required on a college field. Maybe the fact that his talent didn't quite translate against opponents with more heart should have concerned Georgia coaches. In any event, if Caleb King had not shown up to Georgia's summer camp in 2005 only to be outplayed by a kid from New Jersey time and time again, I'm not sure that Knowshon Moreno would have ever gotten the attention he deserved as a recruit, and I doubt that he would have suited up for the red and black. The coaches were there to watch Caleb King, but in the process they discovered a superstar.
When King arrived in Athens, he lost out yet again as Moreno had already captured the eye of coaches and the hearts of those in Sanford Stadium. To this day, I'm not sure Moreno is as good of a back as King is on paper—he's not as fast, and arguably not as strong—but his ability to compete, finish runs and protect the football made him the obvious choice.
King did eventually get playing time and carried the ball 255 times for 1,271 yards and 10 touchdowns over three seasons, but another freshman (Washaun Ealey) came on strong to prevent him from putting a stranglehold on the starting position.
I find it hard to believe that Caleb King would have been clearly superior to Carlton Thomas, Ken Malcome and freshman Isaiah Crowell as a running back in 2011. I think those three guys (and even walk-on Brandon Harton) could match King's productivity when handed the ball. However, I think King's pass-blocking capabilities will be missed.
Moreno, Ealey, Richard Samuel and countless other young backs have struggled to pick up the complex rush schemes that come with college football. King had experience in that field and for the past several seasons was the most proficient running back the Dawgs had in the blocking department.
I now expect Isaiah Crowell to start from day one. And, I expect a successful debut against the Boise State Broncos. Quite honestly, I'm still struggling to understand how their undersized defense is going to be as "unblockable" as the average Bronco fan would suggest to you. I understand speed and I understand quickness. But, I also understand that our offensive line—as depleted as it may be—will be coming off a summer of blocking John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers. I feel confident in their capabilities to slow down smaller players.
Furthermore, I'm confident that the Dawgs' tight end turned fullback, Bruce Figgins, is going to be one heck of an emergency blocker when needed. Lastly, the fact that Orson Charles will be Georgia's most seasoned pass-catching threat will probably translate to a number of shorter passing plays across the middle of the field which won't require substantial protection and will keep linebackers honest in coverage.
Game 2 is much more concerning to me. Isaiah Crowell may have another thing coming when the South Carolina Gamecock defenders break through the opening line—I expect that to happen early and often. If he's not ready to strap it up and take them on head-first as a blocker, then things could get ugly fast.
Caleb King's inability to compete with another high school back at a summer camp led to Knowshon Moreno's stardom in Athens. His inability to push himself while in college triggered Washaun Ealey's rise (temporary as it was) to prominence. Here's to hoping that his post college days see the rise of another great young back, Isaiah Crowell.
I would love for King to be remembered as the man whose shortcoming opened the door for the greatest Georgia running back since that guy named Herschel. But, then again, there was a time when Caleb King was supposed to be that very running back.