ATHENS — Georgia's depth chart at tailback took another hit Friday when senior Caleb King was declared academically ineligible for the 2011 season.
King ended spring practice as the team's starter. Washaun Ealey, who led Georgia in rushing last season, left school in May after two suspensions for disciplinary reasons.
Friday's announcement by coach Mark Richt opens the way for incoming freshman Isaiah Crowell to begin his career as the starting tailback. Even with King on the depth chart, many observers already expected Crowell to win the job.
Richt talked about his high expectations for Crowell, from Carver High in Columbus, when the highly recruited back signed with Georgia in February. Richt hinted that Crowell could be the starter when the Bulldogs open their season against Boise State in the Georgia Dome on Sept. 3.
"I wouldn't be shocked to see him run that rock in the Dome against Boise State on the opening play if he does what he's supposed to do," Richt said.
With the departures of King and Ealey, junior Carlton Thomas (5-foot-7, 170 pounds) is the leading returning rusher, logging 272 yards and two touchdowns last year.
Redshirt freshman Ken Malcome also will have a chance to earn significant playing time. Junior linebacker Richard Samuel is a former tailback. Walk-on Brandon Harton was third on the depth chart, behind King and Thomas, at the end of spring.
"It?s unfortunate Caleb will not be with us this season," Richt said. "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 was suspended for two games last season after failing to appear in court to deal with a speeding ticket. He missed the Liberty Bowl because of academic issues.
King rushed for 430 yards with two touchdowns on 80 carries in 2010. Ealey led the team with 811 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns last season.
Georgia said King is considering his options. He started in 10 of his 29 games at Georgia and rushed for 1,271 yards.