Gurley is Georgia’s reluctant hero

semerson@macon.comAugust 2, 2013 

uga_practice

Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall are juniors this year, while A.J. Turman (background) is a redshirt freshman.

BEAU CABELL — bcabell@macon.com

ATHENS -- Mike Bobo might have been barking and yelling at most of his offense Thursday. One player, however, had Georgia’s offensive coordinator quite excited.

“Can you be like you were yesterday, Gurley?” Bobo said during a running drill Friday. “I watched film of you last night, and you were killing in that hole.”

“You know how I do it coach,” Todd Gurley, the star sophomore tailback, said, as he went to sip some water.

“And you do it every day,” Bobo responded.

That exchange sums up how lucky Georgia is now at a position that had been a concern recently ... until last year.

Technically, this will be the fourth straight season that the tailback who started Georgia’s opener did not return the following season. Ken Malcome started last year’s opener, but Gurley immediately seized the starting job on the way to a season in which he rushed for 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns. Malcome, seeing the obvious, transferred before spring practice.

The ascension of Gurley and classmate Keith Marshall (not too shabby himself last year with 759 yards and eight touchdowns) has settled down the once-chaotic tailback situation. Washaun Ealey and Caleb King struggled in 2010 and were gone the next year. Isaiah Crowell flamed out after a spectacular start the next year and was also gone.

Gurley had such a spectacular debut season that some might have worried that the success would go to his head and he’d coast until this year’s opener. But by all accounts that hasn’t happened.

“Gurley’s what, a first-team All-American in preseason, he could probably just chill until the first game. But he’s not,” junior receiver Michael Bennett said. “He works his butt off. He’s just a little bit goofy, but that’s him. He’s awesome. He’s real hard-working. Both of them are.”

Bennett was referring also to Marshall, describing him as humble, as well. That’s apparent during interviews. Whereas Crowell, prior to his dismissal, talked about a Heisman campaign, Gurley doesn’t seem to have changed at all since last preseason. He’s still fairly reserved and shy with reporters and only lights up when his beloved Duke basketball team is brought up.

The Heisman talk? Being a preseason first-team All-SEC pick? Good luck getting a good quote about that.

“I’m the same, man,” Gurley said. “I’ve been paying attention to it, but it’s not like I’m like, ‘Oh I’ve got to get All-American,’ whatever the awards are.”

He also didn’t appear upset with the notion -- very likely -- that he won’t be able to equal his numbers from his freshman season. Defenses will be keying on him a bit more, Marshall seems likely to get more carries, and his numbers are a lot to replicate.

“It’s definitely gonna be hard. Especially to get 1,000 yards, especially in the SEC,” Gurley said. “But if it happens it happens, if it don’t it don’t. Hopefully it will.”

One area his stats could improve is in receiving. Last year he had 16 catches for 117 yards and no touchdowns. Bobo has been open about getting Gurley and Marshall more involved.

“I think it is the next step,” Bobo said.

Marshall talked about that Thursday before practice started. Gurley, however, had more of a wait-and-see attitude.

“We’ll see how that goes. I’m not the one throwing the ball,” Gurley said, then smiled. “If he passes to me, that’ll be good, but I just take care of what I have to do, and that’s running the ball.”

Gurley did say he wouldn’t mind returning kickoffs again.

“Yeah. It was pretty cool (last year) ... especially the first one,” he said.

That referred to his 100-yard touchdown return against Buffalo. He only got six more chances the rest of the season; his special teams role reduced as his offensive load increased.

This year, the only thing Gurley seems adamant about is disconnecting from the “Gurshall” nickname. Whether or not fans and media cooperate remains to be seen. Gurley didn’t have any suggestions for a new nickname and doesn’t feel like coming up with one.

“I’m good. I got my name,” Gurley said.

Indeed he does.

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