Healthy or not, Georgia’s Todd Gurley has staked his claim as college football’s No. 1 running back for 2014.
Although the Bulldogs ultimately fell short to Nebraska, 24-19, during Wednesday’s Gator Bowl, the sophomore put in yet another sensational effort. He rushed for 86 yards on 21 carries while recording team highs with seven receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown.
Given the absolutely miserable conditions of the field, Gurley put together one heck of a performance.
B/R SEC lead writer Barrett Sallee put it best:
Gurley’s lone touchdown came off a 25-yard pass from quarterback Hutson Mason in the fourth quarter to pull Georgia within 24-19. It could be said that without the play of the Tarboro, N.C., native, the team wouldn’t have even been in position to score the go-ahead touchdown late in the game.
With starting quarterback Aaron Murray set to graduate this year, Gurley’s presence will be more important than ever for the Bulldogs next season.
In 10 games this season, Gurley rushed for 989 yards and 10 touchdowns on 165 carries while hauling in 37 catches for 441 yards and six scores. One can only imagine how deadly he could have been had he played in all 13 of Georgia’s games.
In fact, Gurley’s projected 2013 statistics in 13 games would rank pretty well among those of a few returning running backs next season:
|Gurley's Projected Stats vs. Other Top RBs in 2013|
|Todd Gurley (Georgia)||215||1,286||13||49||573||8|
|Andre Williams (Boston College)||355||2,177||18||0||0||0|
|Ka'Deem Carey (Arizona)||349||1,885||19||26||173||1|
|Bishop Sankey (Washington)||327||1,870||20||28||304||1|
|Carlos Hyde (Ohio State)||183||1,408||14||14||108||2|
|Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska)||281||1,690||9||26||232||2|
|Tyler Gaffney (Stanford)||307||1,626||20||14||88||1|
|Tre Mason (Auburn)||283||1,621||22||11||121||0|
|Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin)||181||1,466||12||1||5||0|
Out of those running backs, only Auburn’s Mason pulled in more combined touchdowns (22) than Gurley’s 21. The other two with at least 20—Sankey (20) and Gaffney (21)—will most likely be playing in the NFL in 2014.
Furthermore, Gurley is the only running back among those listed that brought in more than two receiving touchdowns. Moreover, his 573 receiving yards are considerably more than the next best running back's total (Sankey, 304).
As for whether Gurley can be the lone contributor for the Bulldogs, he’s already proven he’s more than capable of taking on the challenge.
In Georgia’s regular-season finale against Georgia Tech on Nov. 30—the first game after Murray’s season-ending injury—Gurley put the team on his back, finishing with 122 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries. He also caught four passes for 36 yards and another score.
Now, picture that contribution over an entire season. The 2014 Heisman Trophy is easily a possibility.
Needless to say, opposing defenses will be dreading the day they face Gurley and the Bulldogs in 2014.
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of CFBstats.com.