One year ago, many didn’t even consider Todd Gurley the best tailback in Georgia’s freshmen class. Now he’s being mentioned among the tops in the nation.
“Last year was last year, it was my freshman year, I had to learn a couple of things, like every game,” Gurley said. “A lot of guys left, especially on the defense. We’ve got our whole offense back basically. It’s another year for me to get better and perfect my game and to help other guys out as well.”
A better Gurley could be a scary proposition for defenses.
Gurley led all Southeastern Conference rushers (except those not named Johnny Manziel) with 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns last year.
“Hopefully I do match or get higher (in yards) than I did last year or get close,” Gurley said. “If I don’t, just whatever. As long as we win every game.”
His instant impact made those back from Gurley’s hometowns – Tarboro, N.C. and Baltimore – proud.
Gurley starred in high school in the Tar Heel state, where current Georgia backfield mate and friend Keith Marshall got more publicity before they became Bulldogs.
Gurley moved to North Carolina when he was about 7 and that’s where his mother, sister, brothers and grandmother live. One brother, Princeton, 26, is in prison.
Gurley’s rookie season was pretty special. So much so that when he was asked at the start of preseason practices what he wanted to get better on as a sophomore in his game, he came up with being more vocal and bringing more energy to the team.
Consider that done.
“He always has me out there fired up,” defensive end Toby Johnson said. “He’ll be like, ‘Toby, I need to see something.’ He’s always messing with me and stuff.”
“He will break down a huddle,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “He has a lot of leadership skills because he’s willing to talk and willing to say something. … He’s not afraid to speak and have a good time and have fun.”
Gurley and Marshall have worked more this off-season on their route running out of the backfield.
“One thing I wanted to make sure that Todd did is just being able to play without the ball a little bit better,” said running backs coach Bryan McClendon, also referring to play fakes and pass protection. “That’s something he’s worked extremely hard at.”
The 6-foot-1, 232-pound Gurley will get a chance to give Bulldogs fans more to cheer about in the months to come as well those in his corner from back home in North Carolina and Maryland.
“I just try to stay positive for the family,” he said. “I’m out here trying to grind for my family and hopefully one day we’ll all make it.”