I linked up with MaconDawg from DawgSports, the SB Nation community for fans of the Georgia Bulldogs, to get some inside info on Todd Gurley, what he does best and what Rams fans might want to keep an eye out for in the years and drafts ahead.
So first off, tell me who the Rams are getting in Todd Gurley. How high is the esteem Georgia fans hold for him? How would you compare the sentiment to when Knowshon Moreno left? What are the key skills he excelled in that made him such a coveted prospect?
Knowshon Moreno is held in very high esteem by Bulldog fans. While in Athens he was a fan favorite, and when he left he took out an ad in the local paper thanking fans for their support. Georgia fans love them some Knowshon. That being said, Todd Gurley is a good bit more beloved among Georgia fans, at least in my totally anecdotal observations. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that Knowshon was not really "the guy" in Athens until the back half of his redshirt freshman season, then the clear cut starter for his sophomore season (2008), a relatively disappointing affair that began with Georgia ranked #1 in the preseason and then limping through a 3 loss season. Then he was gone. Mark Richt has flatly admitted since then that he made a mistake by redshirting Knowshon Moreno, because he missed getting a year out of him.
Todd Gurley's stature among Georgia fans is a testament to Richt's change of heart. He returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown in his first game as a true freshman (also rushing for 100 yards on 8 carries) and has been the clear best back on campus ever since. That's saying something on a team that boasts 3 other tailbacks rated 5 stars coming out of high school (Keith Marshall, Sony Michel, Nick Chubb), a guy who started as a true freshman (Brendan Douglas) and a top 10 back in his own class (A.J. Turman). Those guys make the difference in Bulldog sentiment right now, however. When Knowshon left it wasn't clear that the Georgia rushing attack was in good hands. Now, however, Georgia is as loaded in the backfield as any team in the country.That's one reason Georgia fans have no qualms with Todd leaving early. He's put in a good career in Athens, and his successor(s) are in place. It's his time to move on.
As to what skills make Todd Gurley such a coveted prospect, they're the skills which make any tailback effective in the NFL. He has world class speed, great size, and preternatural elusiveness for a guy his size. Look, I've seen Tre Mason and Zac Stacy up close in college. They were good backs. But neither is in the same zip code as Todd Gurley where NFL potential is concerned, especially if you want to run the ball between the tackles. The guy is difficult to bring down behind the line because of his exceptional vision, he's murder coming through the line because of his lower body strength, and he's faster than whoever is chasing him once he gets up a head of steam.
Many/most/all (or just me) Rams fans are concerned that the Gurley selection ignores more pressing needs on the roster than RB. What would you offer to Rams fans to suggest Gurley can transcend the accepted limitations of the position and carry the offense beyond what the typical NFL RB, or beyond that what the other RBs on the Rams roster, offer?
I mean every word of the last paragraph of that first answer. I get Rams' fans frustration. Full disclosure: looking at it objectively I might not have drafted Gurley at #10. I think that's a little high and I find it hard to believe they couldn't have traded back to 15-18 and gotten both him and a couple of later round picks to fill some more pressing needs. But I get why they did it. "Transcendent" is a pretty good description of Gurley's skillset. The guy averaged 7.41 yards per carry in 2014 in action against Clemson, South Carolina, Troy,Tennessee, Vandy, and Auburn. That's not the Sisters of Mercy JV. It is with one Sun Belty exception a solid group of football teams. That Clemson defense featured two first round selections last night, and Gurley (with help from Nick Chubb and the Bulldog OL) literally pounded them into submission. Even behind mediocre/inexperienced lines in 2012 and 2013 Gurley was still an all-conference caliber back. The other thing I would offer is that Todd Gurley is a horribly underrated receiver. For his Bulldog career he actually caught 65 passes for 615 yards and 6 touchdowns. He has excellent hands, and his execution on screen passes (positioning, timing) is great, largely due to coaching from Georgia's former RB (now WR) coach Bryan McClendon. Also, as all those electric kickoff returns suggest, he's a reall weapon in the kicking game. Also overlooked? Todd Gurley has 3 career fumbles on 575 career offensive touches. That's otherworldly ball security. You like ball security, right? I know I do.
What's your favorite moment of Todd Gurley as a Bulldog?
The 2013 Florida game. It wasn't necessarily his best game. But Gurley came back from an ankle injury that had hobbled him for much of the year to gut out 100 rushing yards on 17 attempts and 87 receiving yards on only 3 receptions. Even at 80% Gurley was faster than anyone Florida could send after him. After building a 23-3 halftime lead on the back of Gurley's effort the 'Dawgs held on against a Florida comeback for a 23-20 win, their third in a row against their biggest rival. It was classic Gurley, an exercise in mental toughness from a guy who just doesn't have any quit in him.
What is something you didn't expect of Todd Gurley going into 2012 that surprised you over his three years? Or maybe something after 2013 having transcended his general recruiting rankings?
I was one of the folks who took a lot of flack on Signing Day in 2012 for saying that Todd Gurley could be a better college player than fellow signee Keith Marshall. Marshall was a consensus 5 star recruit and among the top 3 backs in the country according to recruiting services. As he should have been. And Todd Gurley's junior film was very good, but not really exceptional. He kind of looked, to use the words of the great Vince Dooley describing the likewise great Herschel Walker, like "a big, slow back." Everyone knew he had track speed, but it just wasn't translating to the football field. But during Gurley's senior year he really came into his own. Take a look.
I just felt like Gurley translated better to what Georgia likes to do offensively. Marshall excelled as a freshman and until suffering a torn ACL in 2013 was option 1B in the Georgia offense. He should (health permitting) play a key role for the Red and Black in 2015. But Gurley was the epitome of the pro style tailback from the moment he stepped on campus. Physically, he was no surprise.
The thing about Todd Gurley that has surprised me the most is his quiet leadership and maturity. Athens is an easy place for a college kid, especially a heralded football star, to find trouble. Todd Gurley by all accounts had fun in college, but no one on the team outworked him. The life of an NFL tailback is tough. Talent gets you into the league, determination and discipline keep you there. Todd Gurley's got that. If you want a guy who'll grab pompoms out of the cheerleaders' hands and dance, Todd Gurley's not your guy. If you want one who'll come to work every day and do what he's asked to do to make the team better, you got him.
Despite being an NFL blogger, I love college football. Hype me up for Georgia football in 2015. Obviously, Trenton Thompson and Roquan Smith lead the class. Who's primed to break out? Who should the NFL put on notice before the season even starts? Should the Rams just pre-order a draft pick for Nick Chubb? (Answer: Yes. Yes, they should.)
The scariest thing about Nick Chubb is that he won't be draft eligible for two more seasons. While Rams fans were not exactly torn up to see Schotty leave, the feeling among Bulldog fans is that the things he wants to do on offense mesh well with the talent in Athens, especially in the offensive backfield. 2015 looks like a bit of a transition year for Georgia as the 'Dawgs break in a new offensive coordinator for the first time in years and have a quarterback battle ongoing. If you're looking for a Bulldog who'll be talked about leading up to the 2016 NFL draft, my money is on outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. Floyd is a pure pass rusher who is nearly unstoppable off the edge. He's joined on the other side by Jordan Jenkins, who's more of an every down guy who really bloomed in 2014 under Jeremy Pruitt's system. Also keep an eye out for wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley. While he didn't make much of an impact in 2014 after tearing up his knee in 2013, I have a feeling he's going to put up some eye-popping combine/pro day numbers. He's a homerun threat every time he touches the ball.