Georgia tailbacks show quality with quantity

Georgia tailbacks show quality with quantity

July 7th, 2013 by David Paschall in Sports - College

UGA photo/Evan Stichler Georgia tailbacks Keith Marshall, left, and Todd Gurley were highly productive as freshmen last season and have not been problematic like some of their predecessors.

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

INSTANT IMPACTS

Four of Georgia's leading rushers the past six seasons have been freshmen:

YEAR // RUSHER // YARDS

2007 // Knowshon Moreno* // 1,334

2008 // Knowshon Moreno // 1,400

2009 // Washaun Ealey // 717

2010 // Washaun Ealey // 811

2011 // Isaiah Crowell // 850

2012 // Todd Gurley // 1,385

* Moreno was a redshirt freshman in '07

Georgia tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall are proving to be as tranquil off the football field as they are dynamic on it.

Given the recent history of that position for the Bulldogs, it's a desired scenario for coach Mark Richt.

"They both came from wonderful families and have tremendous values," Richt said. "They've had a lot of success, and I'm sure there have been some opportunities to have a lot of fun both in good ways and bad ways, but I think they're smart enough to know. They've got enough inside of them from how they were raised to feel like they understand the responsibility of the celebrity they've got."

Rated by Rivals.com among the top five tailbacks nationally in the 2012 signing class, Gurley and Marshall quickly exceeded expectations by rushing for a combined 2,144 yards and 25 touchdowns on a Bulldogs team that went 12-2 and won a second consecutive SEC East title. The 6-foot-1, 218-pound Gurley averaged 6.2 yards a carry, with the 5-11, 216-pound Marshall averaging 6.5.

The two North Carolinians each surpassed 100 yards in Georgia's 56-20 throttling of Florida Atlantic in the third game, but it wasn't until the fifth week that their prospering popularity began to take its toll. After combining for 294 yards and five touchdowns in a 51-44 win over Tennessee, Gurley and Marshall were overwhelmed by fans in Athens while trying to eat at a steakhouse.

Adulation did not subside the rest of the season, so Gurley and Marshall decided to stick together even more in continuing to maintain a subdued public demeanor.

"There are so many distractions out there, and you want to stay on top of things and try not to make bad decisions," Gurley said. "It is so easy to get into trouble, and it is so hard to get out of trouble."

Predecessors Caleb King, Washaun Ealey and Isaiah Crowell can attest to that.

King was a touted signee in 2007, as were Ealey in '09 and Crowell in '11. All three tailbacks were suspended at least once during their time on campus, and none left the program on his own terms.

Crowell was dismissed last June after being arrested on felony weapons charges, which were dropped in April, so he teamed with Marshall for a spring but never got to work with Gurley. Nor did he allow himself the opportunity to learn from the reserved tandem, either.

"They're focused on their long-range goal of graduating and taking a shot at the league, so I see them training that way and handling their academics that way," Richt said. "I've not heard a peep about anything off the field, and I think they have represented themselves very well. I get positive comments from teachers, instructors and tutors, and I'll get emails from people who might have met them at a restaurant or a grocery store and how they've been very kind.

"They will stop for pictures and autographs, so they are really representing Georgia well. I'm not shocked by it, and I'm thankful for it."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.