ATHENS, Ga. — The man who ran for more yards than anyone in Southeastern Conference history watched the Georgia football team warm up before Saturday’s game against Tennessee.
Between posing for pictures and greeting Bulldogs fans thrilled to see him back in Sanford Stadium, Herschel Walker took a moment to give his assessment of Georgia freshman Todd Gurley, the player who currently leads the league in rushing.
“He’s an incredible back,” said Walker, the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner. “He has size and vision. The Georgia fans have something to look forward to with him running the ball like that. There’s a couple of them. That’s what you need to build your program back up.”
Gurley and his fellow freshman backfield mate –and roommate – Keith Marshall showed again in the 51-44 victory that the Bulldogs have a dynamic duo toting the ball this season.
Marshall rushed for 167 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries. Gurley ran 24 times for 135 yards and three touchdowns.
On Monday, the pair shared Southeastern Conference freshmen of the week honors with Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
The Georgia duo has been labeled “Gurshall,” a term teammates say they picked up on from fans on message boards.
“Everyone in the locker room is saying that nowadays,” quarterback Aaron Murray said.
Walker wore No. 34. Gurley is No. 3 and Marshall No. 4.
“It’s pretty funny,” Gurley said. “To me it’s cool that people are comparing us to Herschel. … I know he was one of the best players to come through college football. People always try to compare us and stuff. We just go out there and try to play our game.”
Gurley watched Walker’s SEC Storied documentary and Marshall said he’s seen “a lot of clips” of Walker playing for the Bulldogs from 1980-82 when he rushed for 5,259 yards.
“He’s probably the greatest college running back of all time or at least one of them,” Marshall said.
Now it’s Marshall and Gurley running to daylight. Marshall scored on touchdown runs of 75 and 72 yards on Saturday and Gurley raced 51 yards for a score.
“There’s a bunch of long runs by those Bulldog freshmen,” said South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, whose No. 6 Gamecocks play the No. 5 Bulldogs Saturday night in Columbia. “That’s probably a good message. Sometimes you lose a top running back that had some issues like the kid they had there last year and maybe the next guys come in and play as well or better.”
The 6-foot-1, 218-pound Gurley and the 5-11, 216-pound Marshall—plucked from the prep ranks in North Carolina—have made Georgia fans quickly forget about Isaiah Crowell, who was booted from the team in late June.
Marshall, who bested Gurley in the 100-meters in a high school track meet, has shown his open-field speed.
Gurley has shown he is hard to bring down. Coach Mark Richt said Tennessee defenders didn’t want to take him on after a while because of the pounding he can deliver.
“He reminds me a lot of Trent Richardson as far as his lower body strength and he takes the ball North and South,” Tennessee defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri, a former Alabama assistant, told reporters last week.
Gurley leads the SEC in rushing (536 yards), touchdowns (nine) and all-purpose yards (158.0) while averaging 7.9 yards per carry.
Marshall, who has two of the three longest runs by an SEC tailback this season, averages 8.2 yards per carry and is seventh in the SEC in rushing with 528 yards.
“We knew they were going to be special players, but how special was still in the air,” Murray said about two players ranked among the top 50 recruits by Rivals.com. “Right now so far this season, they are two of the best not only in the SEC but in the entire country.”
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said the Bulldogs have done “a nice job of getting those guys to the safeties and when they get to the safety, you’ve seen what they can do. They can take it to the house.”
Georgia’s tailback tradition is headlined by Walker. Now Gurley and Marshall are carrying the torch.
“Herschel Walker is one of a kind,” Bobo said. “These kids need to continue doing what they’ve been doing and that’s being themselves. ÉThey’ve done a great job themselves of preparing every week and staying humble.”