A NICE START
A game-by-game look at tailback Todd Gurley's freshman season at Georgia:
OPPONENT // RUSHES // YARDS
Buffalo // 8 // 100
Missouri // 10 // 65
Florida Atlantic // 10 // 111
Vanderbilt // 16 // 130
Tennessee // 24 // 130
South Carolina // 13 // 39
Kentucky // 12 // 47
Florida // 27 // 118
Ole Miss // 18 // 117
Auburn // 11 // 116
Ga. Southern // 15 // 68
Georgia Tech // 12 // 97
Alabama // 23 // 122
Georgia freshman tailback Todd Gurley has powered and raced his way to 1,260 rushing yards heading into Tuesday's Capital One Bowl against Nebraska.
Gurley uses "happy" and "blessed" to describe his first college season, but he also realizes he has set a high bar for next year. The 6-foot-1, 218-pounder from Tarboro, N.C., has scored 16 touchdowns through 13 games and has averaged an imposing 6.3 yards per carry.
"Sometimes it can be hard having two really good seasons back to back," Gurley said. "If I don't, then it is what it is. People are going to have something to say anyway, so I'm not really worried about it."
Herschel Walker racked up 1,616 yards as a Bulldogs freshman in 11 games during the 1980 season, scoring 15 touchdowns and averaging 5.9 yards a rush.
Gurley has rushed for 638 yards and six touchdowns in his last six games, including a 122-yard, two-score performance in the 32-28 loss to Alabama in the SEC championship game. The Crimson Tide have faced six 1,000-yard rushers this season, and Gurley was the only one to gain more than 100 yards against them.
"I'm proud of Todd, no doubt," Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said. "He has gotten a lot of yards after contact, and he is just a guy who obviously has some tackle-breaking ability and some speed for a big man."
Ranked among the top five running backs nationally in the 2012 signing class by Rivals.com, Gurley wasted no time in breaking through. He had 100 yards on eight carries and a 100-yard kickoff return in the 45-23 opening defeat of Buffalo.
Gurley rushed for 536 yards in the first five games, with his favorite carry of the season being a 29-yard touchdown late in the third quarter of a 48-3 rout of Vanderbilt. He broke four tackles on the play, including one by applying a stiff arm.
"When I got to the end zone, I realized that one was pretty special," Gurley said.
After being held in check at South Carolina and at Kentucky, Gurley shouldered the load in the 17-9 win over Florida that catapulted the Bulldogs into the national championship picture. He had been averaging just 13 carries a game through the first seven contests, often sharing time with fellow freshman standout Keith Marshall, but had 27 carries against the Gators for 118 yards.
His 24 carries against Tennessee and his 23 rushes against Alabama were the only other times he had more than 18 attempts in a game.
Once Tuesday's game is over, Gurley will begin prepping for a sophomore season that is sure to be filled with lofty expectations. Junior quarterback Aaron Murray will have to decide in the days ahead whether to leave early for the NFL, but Gurley wants to take more of a leadership role in 2013 regardless of Murray's choice.
Even if that means being in front of the cameras more as a face of the program.
"I don't like doing interviews and stuff like that, but I know that's part of the role, so I won't have a problem with it," Gurley said.
Odds and ends
The Bulldogs practiced for two hours Friday morning before an afternoon trip to Sea World. ... Richt said the plan is to play senior defensive end Abry Jones (ankle), but he doesn't know for how long. ... Richt on if there has been any confusion on the defensive front with coach Rodney Garner and starting noseguard John Jenkins gone: "I think Coach [Todd] Grantham has everything under control." ... Georgia will practice this morning before an afternoon at Walt Disney World.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...