The running back combination of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall has quickly become one of the best tandems in college football. Rushing for a combined 2,144 yards last season and scoring more than 25 touchdowns, Georgia has itself a one-two punch in the backfield that is difficult to stop.
But even with all of the impressive numbers and endless highlight reels, these two runners were freshmen last season. Believe it or not, these two guys can improve and help the Bulldogs reach another SEC Championship Game.
The production and talent is already there. Here is how the "Gurshall" duo can take things to another level in 2013.
Throw the Ball to Marshall
It is no secret Marshall needs to be involved more in this offense. His 117 rushing attempts compared to Gurely's 222 doesn't seem fair. While giving him more touches in the running department is obvious, getting him more involved in the passing game would be downright scary.
Unlike Gurley, Marshall isn't this big back who seems capable of carrying the load on every down. He isn't a bruiser that is going to break a ton of tackles and run people over. Sure, his frame is listed at 5'11", 219 pounds, but he seems smaller when watching him on film. Marshall relies on speed and acceleration to make his name, and he is the kind of runner you want to create mismatches for and get into space.
Sending him out for passes would allow just that. He only had 11 receptions last season but displayed solid hands, especially in the bowl game against Nebraska. Here you see Marshall on a linebacker, which is an obvious mismatch with his speed and ability to break free. While quarterback Aaron Murray avoids pressure and is trying to find an open receiver, Marshall turns up the field to create separation.
It was game over the second he did this, as there aren't many linebackers in college that will be able to keep up with Marshall stride-for-stride. But it was the catch away from his body that should catch everybody's attention.
Looking more like a receiver out there, Marshall was able to turn his body, catch the ball with his hands and walk in for the touchdown. Many running backs struggle to catch the ball so cleanly which is why you don't see many run deeper routes.
Marshall deserves more playing time running between the tackles but finding ways to let him operate in space is where you will see his true value. Sending him out for passes and letting him work against linebackers and slower defensive players will benefit this Georgia offense greatly.
Use Gurley Late in Games
Thanks to a weak schedule and talented team, Georgia was able to pull most of its starters out early. With nine games decided by two touchdowns or more, many Bulldogs forgot what it is like to play in the fourth quarter and have to finish things off. That will likely change this season with Clemson, South Carolina, LSU, Florida and even sleeper teams like Vanderbilt on the schedule.
What should Gurley do to become more effective? Demand the ball in the fourth quarter.
Those numbers can be a little deceiving considering Gurley only participated in the fourth quarter seven times last season. However, even in limited fourth quarters he received the ball less than five times, which isn't good enough. The SEC teams that are consistently competing for SEC titles such as Alabama and LSU have mastered this formula and pound the ball down the opponents throat in the final 15 minutes.
Georgia did run the ball 140 times in the fourth quarter, which was the most of any other quarter last season, but the offense needs to take more advantage of Gurley's running style. He is a back that looks for contact and doesn't mind putting defenders on their back. A tough-nosed runner, Gurley is somebody who can secure the victory and wear down the defense.
Even though Georgia is still that talented team capable of winning the SEC, games won't come as easy with a tougher schedule on tap. Gurley must demand the football more in crunch time. It will make this tandem and team that much more effective.
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