Perhaps the most unusual, bizarre and extraordinary story from UGA’s 2015 football recruiting class was Tae Crowder.
Crowder is the running back from Harris County High School who got an offer from UGA less than 36 hours before signing day, only after a longtime commit bailed on the Bulldogs for another school.
It was a stunning turn of events for Crowder, who had been prepared to sign with Georgia Southern.
After getting a last-minute call from UGA’s Mark Richt with an offer, Crowder didn’t waste any time. He committed to the Bulldogs on the spot – without ever visiting the campus and without meeting any of the coaches in person.
“It was just always my dream to play at the University of Georgia,” Crowder told the AJC this week.
Even though Crowder has been an official UGA signee for a month, he has still yet to visit the campus or meet any of the coaches in person.
But that oddity will change soon, as Crowder is scheduled to take his official visit with the Bulldogs on March 21.
Mark Richt told the AJC that Crowder’s recruitment wasn’t standard protocol, but Crowder fulfilled a big need at running back for UGA in this class.
How did Richt find Crowder? He got a recommendation from a member of his support staff, Todd Harley, the new UGA Director of Player Personnel. Hartley had recruited Crowder when he was an assistant at Marshall.
“It was that, and watching the film,” Richt said. “Tae Crowder’s film showed that he is a very tough and physical runner. He’s good as breaking tackles. He’s a guy that we think can help us.”
Richt also pointed out that this wasn’t the first time he had made a late addition in such a unique and unconventional manner.
“Timmy Jennings was that way,” Richt said. “We offered Timmy the night before signing day. (He was going to sign with South Carolina State).
“Kenarious Gates, we offered one or two nights before signing day. Gates started three years for us, and Timmy was the last guy in his class to come in – and I think he was the first one drafted. He became an All-Pro corner.”
It has been a month since signing day, and Harris County coach Dwight Jones is still amazed with how everything unfolded in the last hours between UGA and his star running back.
“I think it’s great for Tae Crowder, more than anything else,” Jones said. “I guess you learn a lot about the recruiting process. You never know until it’s over with, and it wasn’t over with until the very end with Tae. When Coach Richt called him that Monday night, he was tickled to death that he had the opportunity to sign with Georgia.”
UGA offered Crowder a few hours after another running back had bailed out on the Bulldogs. Former Parkview High School standout Chris Carson had been committed to UGA since last summer, but he made the Bulldog coaches nervous by taking an official visit to Oklahoma State.
UGA coaches had to be relieved when Carson told reporters on the Sunday before signing day that he was sticking with the Bulldogs. However, by the next morning, Carson had changed his mind, sending UGA into scramble mode.
Hartley had recruited Crowder when he was in a coaching role as an assistant at Marshall. Hartley had spent time at Harris County, watching Crowder play basketball and even making an in-home visit.
But Marshall was too far away from home, as were many of Crowder’s other offers such as Kentucky and Cincinnati. That’s how Georgia Southern beat out bigger schools to initially land Crowder’s commitment.
“He liked Georgia Southern because it was in the state of Georgia and because of the possibility to play,” Jones said. “And then UGA came in, and he always had wanted to play there. His parents, and I know his mother, were always hopeful about UGA. If that late offer hadn’t come around, Tae would’ve gone to Georgia Southern and would’ve been a good player there. “
Here’s some more background on Crowder: In his first and only year of playing running back at Harris County, Crowder rushed for 1,665 yards and 27 touchdowns. That’s right, this was his first year at running back. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder had played tight end and slot receiver as a sophomore and junior, and he only changed positions as a senior after being asked to do so.
“What we had to teach him was that ‘When you see grass, you get up in that hole,’” Jones said. “After the first couple of games, he saw it. We’ve got a quarterback (TaQuon Marshall) going to Georgia Tech. We’ve got a lineman going to Cincinnati, and another one headed to Indiana State. So it wasn’t like he was doing it all himself. He learned to trust his blockers, and that’s a big part of being a running back.
“Tae has got the best stiff arm of any high school kid I’ve ever seen. I’ve been coaching high school for 34 years. He will explode on you with a stiff arm. He will knock you to the ground. He catches the ball fantastic out of the backfield. He catches the ball with one hand or with both hands. He just eats the ball up. He has good hands, good hand-eye coordination, and good balance.
“I love Tae Crowder. He’s a great kid, and he works his tail off. He came in with a new coaching staff with us, and was willing to move to a different position. He had a great attitude about it. At Georgia, I think he has the ability to carry the ball 15 or 20 times per game, and give them some help whenever they call on him.”
Here’s the film that Mark Richt watched that convinced him to offer Tae Crowder. What do you think? Post below.
Here’s a scouting report on Crowder: “He’s a poor man’s Todd Gurley. He excels between the tackles, but can be an H-Back also. Really, he’s an all-around athlete. UGA can split him out wide, too. He’s a hidden gem. He’s another guy that big schools didn’t do their homework on. They look at the 247sports.com lists when they start to scramble.”