Georgia Bulldogs tailback Todd Gurley is shining as a true freshman in just three games this season. He is leading all rushers in every offensive category possible except for carries, but has gained more yards then the other backs and has emerged as the starter.
Gurley, who is a three time state champion in football and former Tarboro Viking superstar, is averaging 92 yards per game on the ground on just over nine carries. He is leading the team with 287 yards and five touchdowns.
He is also emerging as on the top kick returners in the Southeastern Conference. He has 243 return yards on seven attempts and has scored on a 100 yard kickoff return which was in his first collegiate game on just his third touch of his career. Gurley is averaging 34.7 yards per return.
He is not the only true freshman doing positive things in the back field and not the only player from North Carolina shining either, because Keith Marshall has emerged as running threat for the Bulldogs.
Gurley and Marshall became close friends during their senior campaigns in their high school seasons. Marshall was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in North Carolina high school football, but Gurley received the honor from the Associated Press and was named the Player of the Year. Gurley was also named The Daily Southerner Player of the Year and earned the NCHSAA 2-A state championship game Most Valuable Player two consecutive years.
Gurley and Marshall are roommates and have become very close friends, which Gurley says has helped them become even better players.
Even though the two are fighting for a starting spot at the same position, Gurley said their time away from the field helps them on it. They have picked each other's brain and have given advice to one another.
This year, Gurley and Marshall have combined for seven runs of 20-yards or more. Gurley has runs of 55,44 and 38.
Goergia running backs coach Bryan McClendon is relieved to see the work of two freshman in the backfield in Gurley and Marshall. They have put it down as downplaying the significance of their contributions.
For a position that has been snake bitten the last few years in Goergia, the two freshman have brought encouragement back to the tailback position with their play and attitudes.
"Relieving is a bit of an understatement," McClendon said. "Being consistent with all the small stuff is one thing that has helped those guys to get in the position to make those big runs. Obviously, their ability takes over, but their attention to detail is uncanny for them being as young as they are."
When you talk about fundamentals, it can be difficult for young college players because when they are in high school they just take the football and run. Gurley and Marshall are different. They are willing to excel in all areas that have helped them become that much more reliable at a position that has seen lots of players with talent disappear over the years in Georgia.
With Isaiah Crowell being dismissed from the team, that gave Gurley and Marshall the chance to shine during their freshman year and get the extra carries.
"We are just trying to do the right thing," Gurley said. "I hope non of this happens to us."
When they have down time, they lighten the mood by playing H.O.R.S.E. in their dorm with a mini basketball hoop, which Gurley says he dominates regularly.
While Gurley has the edge in mini-ball, he wouldn’t be the same without Marshall on the field. The two complement each other with their running styles, as Gurley is the pounder and Marshall is the speedster. It not only frees them up for breathers, but it helps the offense, expanding what it can do.
Both still have a ways to go, but for the first time in a while, the Bulldogs can rely on their backfield to help guide this offense.
This weekend Georgia will back back in action Saturday when they host Vanderbilt in Sanford Stadium.