Last year was supposed to be the season the entire college landscape learned about Todd Gurley. The sophomore from the University of Georgia was poised to improve on a freshman season that put his name on the map in Athens, drawing comparisons to other great running backs to come out of the University of Georgia.
Last year was supposed to be the year Gurley ran over the names like Worley and Edwards and took a shot at some guy named Walker. Injuries curtailed that attempt, so this is the season where we get to see just how good, no great, he can be.
The freshman stats don’t lie: In 2012, Gurley finished the game with Alabama by rushing for 122 yards off 23 carries and two TDs against a very tough defensive team (Alabama's defense gave up just 76.4 rushing yards per game in 2012). As a true freshman in 2012, Gurley rushed for 1,385 yards on 222 carries with 17 touchdowns.
According to Kevin McGuire of collegfootballtalk.com, one of the biggest reasons to like Georgia’s chances in the SEC, if not just the SEC East, in 2014 lies on the health of running back Todd Gurley. The victim of a sprained ankle last season, Gurley appears to be primed for a bounce back season for the Bulldogs and he probably should be the focus of the offense early on. Head coach Mark Richt knows he has quite the talent ready to take handoffs but also realizes the importance of keeping him healthy.
“If he’s healthy, he’s gonna make great runs. I mean you’ve gotta give him the ball,” Richt said in a report recently published by The Telegraph. “We’ve done a pretty good job of throwing the ball to him. But Keith Marshall’s pretty talented, obviously. Brendan Douglas, we like what he did. We’ve got a couple highly-touted guys coming in, I wanna see what they can do.”
Georgia has something special in the running game, with the potential of a Heisman Trophy on its way should the Bulldogs surprise everyone and compete for a national title. The passing is still a concern since the team lost Aaron Murray to graduation. If the running game can keep the offense in check then thoughts of post season success may very well be warranted.
With breaking in a new full-time starter at the position, it should be expected the running game carries the load more in the beginning of the season. Richt is suggesting a healthy Gurley is going to be leading that charge, but they need to do so smartly.
“So are we gonna give it to (Gurley) 30 times a game and wear him to a nub, no,” Richt explained. “But there may be a game or two where he’s feeling in, and we’ve got momentum, and he’s pounding, we’re gonna let him pound. But Douglas pounds pretty good too. Keith Marshall can hit a home run at any moment. So we’ll use all those guys.”
And if Gurley can show his junior year was as good as his freshman campaign the team success should lead to individual accolades, the kind that could send Gurley to the next level in 2015.