ATHENS, Ga. — Todd Gurley has shown in his two seasons at Georgia that he can be a special running back when he’s on the field.
In the last week, he’s shown head coach Mark Richt and running backs coach Bryan McClendon he can bring it in the grind of spring practices.
“I’ve had talks with coaches,” Gurley said. “Me and coach Richt and B-Mac. They just want me to go out there and practice hard and give it my all. Just don’t cut myself short. Just try to get better.”
Gurley certainly produced like Gurley can during the Bulldogs’ second spring scrimmage Saturday morning in Sanford Stadium.
He rushed for a team-best 67 yards on 10 carries, a decent load for one of the nation’s elite college running backs.
“Balled like always,” said inside linebacker Ramik Wilson, who had seven tackles Saturday. “He’s the best running back in the nation. You can’t really hold him back for that long.”
There were questions just how much Gurley would practice this spring.
“It’s good to see Todd involved and also in shape,” quarterback Huston Mason said.
Gurley didn’t go through offseason mat drills following a season which he missed three games and portions of others with ankle and hip injuries. Those injuries kept him from a second consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season. He finished with 989 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 165 carries and had 37 catches for 441 yards and five touchdowns.
“He started slow in spring,” Richt said. “Early practices, I thought he was ho-humming it a little bit. Then he really, this last week it was impressive. I say ho-humming. I don’t know if that’s the right word. I don’t know if that’s how people perceive that. I don’t know if he was going as hard as he could go. This past week, I thought he was tremendous every day, including today.”
Gurley even stepped up his interview game with reporters Saturday.
He was engaging when he is often reluctant.
He spoke while holding an ice pack on his right hand but said it wouldn’t be an issue in the next practice on Tuesday.
“I don’t mess with that green,” he said of wearing a non-contact jersey
Big things are expected of the 6-foot-1, 232-pound Gurley. Most expect the junior from Tarboro, N.C., to jump to the NFL after the coming season.
First, Gurley is shooting for big things for Georgia in 2014.
“We’re just tired of being mediocre and just going to the SEC championship game and not winning,” said Gurley, who made the title game as a freshman in 2012. “Or going to the bowl game and losing. We’re trying to start something new at Georgia.”
Georgia’s chances of winning a championship are better if Gurley can stay healthy.
When he does, he can do what he did Saturday when got off a run of 25 to 30 yards on the first drive, Mason said.
“He was in there,” Mason said. “He wasn’t coming in and out. It was good to see him in shape and last on those long drives. Sometimes it will get down to third-and-2, third-and-1 and he’ll be worn out and we’ll thrown (Brendan) Douglas in there. ”
Two days earlier, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said: “Todd has done a good job of pushing through and practicing like a great player should. … When he practices hard, that does a lot for our football team in showing leadership. If he wants to be one of the best players in the country and we want to be the best teams in the country, we need him to be at his best.”
Gurley already has rushed for 2,374 yards and 27 touchdowns. There’s more yet to come.
“He knows it’s really time to focus being great in every detail of his life,” Richt said, “and I think he’s taking on that challenge.”