Photo: Craig Cappy University of Georgia's Isaish Crowell runs the ball up field during Saturday's game against South Carlina.
ATHENS -- Isaiah Crowell, who played like a lead back even in a reserve role, is ready for his first start as Georgia's tailback.
Coach Mark Richt said Tuesday that Crowell would start Saturday against Coastal Carolina.
Playing behind Richard Samuel, Crowell rushed for 118 yards with a touchdown in last week's 45-42 loss to then-No. 12 South Carolina. The freshman also caught a 17-yard touchdown pass.
"I think he is a very special back," Richt said. "As the game was going on, I thought he was running well, but when I looked at the film ... he really made some great runs."
Richt says Crowell's production is "a big part" of his promotion to starter. Richt also said Samuel is "kind of hobbled" by a heel injury. If Samuel can't play this week, junior Carlton Thomas could have his first carries of the season behind Crowell.
Crowell leads Georgia (0-2) with 178 yards rushing. Richt said Crowell will benefit from playing against Boise State in the Georgia Dome and his first Southeastern Conference game against South Carolina.
"I think he understands a lot more about what it takes and I think he's even more motivated to work even harder in practice and to make sure he takes care of every little detail," Richt said. "Not to say that he wasn't, but just he's a freshman and until you play in an SEC game like that you really don't get it, fully. I saw more urgency on his part, even in yesterday's practice. He seems excited about what the future holds."
Richt said more motivation also can come with moving into the starting role.
"Now that he's in that role, a lot of guys when they get in that starter's role, they get an even greater sense of urgency in terms of preparation," Richt said.
Georgia needs Crowell and a stronger running game to help take pressure off quarterback Aaron Murray, who has been sacked eight times in the two games.
Murray said Crowell has "looked awesome" in his first two games.
"I mean, everyone can see it when it comes to the running game, passing game, blocking," Murray said. "The kid is a special player. He only gets better and better with every game. He can say 'Hey, I can play in the SEC game. I can play against big-time competition.'"