A Healthy Georgia Backfield Is the Best Offensive Weapon in College Football

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterAugust 31, 2014

USA Today

When healthy, Georgia running back Todd Gurley is the best running back in college football.

He proved it between the hedges on Saturday afternoon vs. Clemson, rushing 15 times for 198 yards and three touchdowns, scoring a touchdown on a 100-yard kickoff return and setting a Georgia single-game record with 293 all-purpose yards.

Gurley struggled with an ankle injury for the final two months of last season, but he looked like he was 100 percent in the 45-21 win over the Tigers. 

It was enough to vault Gurley to the No. 3 spot in B/R's weekly Heisman rankings—an award that's typically reserved for quarterbacks.

"Todd Gurley is obviously as good as it gets," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said in a postgame interview, via GeorgiaDogs.com. "He is a great, great football player. If you give him the ball in the position that we gave them he is going to do great things. Gurley, and all their backs, were special tonight."

They were indeed.

Junior Keith Marshall still looked slowed from last season's ACL injury, but freshman Nick Chubb (four carries for 70 yards and a touchdown) looked like a star in the making, and fellow freshman Sony Michel (six carries for 33 yards) has the moves to be a dangerous weapon for quarterback Hutson Mason in a variety of ways.

Georgia RB Nick Chubb
Georgia RB Nick ChubbDavid Goldman/Associated Press

Not only does Georgia have the best back in college football, but it has quality depth, which makes the Bulldogs backfield the most dangerous weapon in college football.

"[Gurley] makes it easy for us," Mason said, via Georgia's official athletics website. "You just have to give him the ball every chance you get. We have some pretty good backups too. Sony and Nick Chubb are both really great. We knew Nick's skill set coming into the game today and he ran well. He reminds me a lot of Todd."

Talk about a "rich man's problem" for head coach Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.

The abundance of talent in the backfield allows the coaching staff so much flexibility in terms of it mixes and matches its running backs.

If it wants to hold Gurley back in the first half like it did against Clemson—he had four first-half carries for 44 yards and a touchdownuse him on special teams and conserve his energy to shut the door in the second half, it can.

If it wants to control the clock early and put the game on his shoulders to take pressure off Mason, it can.

If it wants to get him out of the game a little earlier than normal and give some of the backups some meaningful carries to protect their star, it can.

Georgia RB Todd Gurley
Georgia RB Todd GurleyScott Cunningham/Getty Images

That's not just a luxury for the coaching staff; it's a luxury for Mason—a redshirt senior who's in his first year as the full-time starting quarterback.

With only one shot for glory, Mason may have the urge to try to do it all himself—especially when receivers Justin Scott-Wesley and Malcolm Mitchell get back to full speed and join Michael Bennett and Chris Conley in the receiving corps.

He doesn't have to, thanks to the ground attack, and it was clear in the opener that he knows it.

If the Bulldogs want to play ball control, the running game allows them to do it. If they want to put their best back at more of an injury risk on special teams, the depth allows them to. If they want to mix in different looks with two star tailbacks in the same formation, they can. If they want to open it up in the passing game, the threat on the ground will open passing lanes for Mason the size of the Grand Canyon.

Georgia's top-end talent, depth and versatility at tailback make the running-back position between the hedges the most dangerous weapon in college football.

There isn't a close second.



Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report, and co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93 XM 208. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.


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