ATHENS, Ga. — No complaints.
No complacency, either.
Todd Gurley's freshman football season at the University of Georgia was nothing short of exemplary, as the powerful tailback rushed for 1,385 yards, 6.2 yards a carry and 17 touchdowns. Only Herschel Walker rushed for more yards as a Bulldogs freshman, but now the challenge for Gurley is to become an even better all-around threat as a sophomore.
"I've been really impressed with the way he's prepared for this year," Georgia running backs coach Bryan McClendon said after a recent practice. "Obviously he played a lot of ball last year, and he knows what it takes to be at his very best peak performance early on in the season and to be able to sustain it. We talk about maintaining his health and being able to last all season long.
"It's a physical position, so it takes a lot to do that, and the other part with Todd is just making sure he plays well without the ball and be dominant in pass protection. That's usually an area where you see big improvement from the first to the second year."
A 6-foot-1, 232-pounder from Tarboro, N.C., Gurley will compete at the same size as a year ago, when he surpassed the 100-yard mark in nine games. He had a 30-yard gain in seven games and finished the season with 122 yards in the SEC title game loss to Alabama and 125 yards in the Capital One Bowl win over Nebraska.
He displayed speed, strength and durability, and he apparently provided both leadership and levity in the huddle.
"The thing about Todd is that he's not afraid to speak up or talk," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "There are a lot of freshmen who are like mutes, and they're not going to say anything. Sometimes he'll step in that huddle and say something funny, which is unusual for a freshman, but I think he has a lot of leadership skills."
Said Gurley: "I want to be more vocal and bring more energy to practices and the games. I want to bring it every day."
Gurley attained instant stardom last season, rushing for 100 yards on eight carries in an opening win over Buffalo and returning a kickoff 100 yards. His 17 rushing touchdowns topped the 15 Walker scored as a freshman, and he also got comfortable catching passes out of the backfield, tallying 16 receptions for 117 yards.
It was a debut year that has set a high bar for Gurley in every aspect this time around, but he's eager to give it another go.
"I'm not really worried, but it's definitely going to be hard," Gurley said. "It's hard to get 1,000 yards in the SEC. If it happens, it happens, and if it doesn't, it doesn't. Hopefully it will, but as long as the team is winning, I could care less about anything, really.
"Our offense should be much faster than last year, so we should be just going and going and going. I definitely know more now than I did last year."
Odds and ends
Georgia was scheduled to have its final two-a-day practice Saturday, but head coach Mark Richt used the morning session to make the annual trek to Ramsey Center so players could swim and dive. ... Bobo said freshman quarterback Brice Ramsey is vying with Christian LeMay, Parker Welch and Faton Bauta for the No. 3 spot behind Aaron Murray and Hutson Mason. ... Line coach Will Friend told reporters that Kolton Houston has worked at right tackle and John Theus at right guard in recent practices. ... Georgia picked up its 17th commitment this weekend, from Shattle Fenteng, a 6-2, 185-pound cornerback from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.
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 ...
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