Whenever Georgia freshman tailback Todd Gurley makes the trip to Athens from his Tarboro, N.C., hometown, he passes exits for five Atlantic Coast Conference schools.
There are signs for North Carolina, North Carolina State, Duke and Wake Forest off Interstate 40, and there is an exit for Clemson off I-85. The 6-foot-1, 218-pounder didn't make the most popular choice in his area in February when he picked the Bulldogs over UNC and N.C. State, but there is no looking back now.
"I had to make a decision for me," Gurley said Friday. "Most of my friends are UNC, N.C. State and East Carolina fans, and they wanted me to stay in-state, but I think they can respect my decision. If they all knew Georgia's coaching staff the way I do, they would definitely understand why I came here."
Gurley rushed for 2,600 yards and 38 touchdowns last season and had 242 yards and four scores in the 2A state championship game, and he is producing early results for the Bulldogs. After Gurley led all rushers in Wednesday's scrimmage with 58 yards and a touchdown on six carries, Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said Friday that Gurley and fellow freshman Keith Marshall will play this season.
Marshall, a fellow North Carolinian from Raleigh, enrolled at Georgia in January.
"They're getting there," Richt said. "You can't ever be comfortable with it until they get enough reps and experience, but they know enough to function to get reps in a ball game."
With three weeks remaining until the Sept. 1 opener against Buffalo, the two freshmen continue to share first-team duties with redshirt sophomore Ken Malcome and redshirt senior Richard Samuel.
"Whoever is the most productive guy, we've got to get him in the game," Richt said. "If it's one of those two guys, we've got to get them in there."
Gurley said he felt he was behind Marshall when he arrived this summer but is happy with the way camp has progressed. Wednesday's scrimmage provided some confidence, Gurley said, and he believes there are a lot of similarities with the freshman tailbacks but that Marshall is a little faster.
Richt said earlier this week that both can run the football but pass protection is their issue.
"I didn't have to do too much of that in high school," Gurley said, "but I think I'm coming along in that area."
Odds and ends
Backup right guard Hunter Long broke his left foot during Friday's practice and will miss six to eight weeks. ... The Bulldogs worked out for two hours in full pads, and Richt said the energy level was "a bit down." ... Richt said most of the offensive freshmen would play this year with quarterback Faton Bauta as a likely exception. ... Former Dalton High defensive end Jalen Fields, who signed with Georgia before failing to qualify, underwent gall bladder surgery recently and is expected to miss Louisiana-Lafayette's opener Sept. 1 against Lamar.