Gurley looking to rebound from injury-plagued ’13

Ben Cook

March 11, 2014 at 1:04 pm.

A healthy Todd Gurley is a problem for SEC defenses to deal with. (Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports)

There was a time when a running back was judged by a 1,000-yard season.

That was back in the dark ages when teams played just 10 games in a regular season. But those days are long gone.

First, the regular season was expanded to 11 games. Then once athletic directors saw how much money that extra game was bringing in, it was only natural that they decided a 12-game schedule was the way to go.

In view of the discord over the recently tabled 10-second runoff proposal despite the concerns of proponent’s in the name of player safety, you might have thought some coaches might have stood up and mentioned that adding an extra game certainly increased the risk of injuries. But none did, probably because that extra game put more money in their pockets.

Player safety didn’t much matter when it was compared to extra dollars for the coach and the school. The players didn’t cash in on the big bucks though. They never do. All the players do is risk life and limb and now they may have to do it as many as 15 games a season if they get to the championship game of the playoff, which incidentally will bring in even more money — which the players won’t share.

But back to my original point—a player can still be measured by 1,000-yard seasons. It used to take averaging 100 yards a game to get to the 1,000-yard mark but now a player can get there if he averages 83.3 yards per game. That’s still pretty good.

One player who almost reached the 1,000-yard mark last season the old-fashioned way was Georgia tailback Todd Gurley. Because of injuries, Gurley only played in 10 games and wound up with 989 yards rushing on 165 carries, an average of 98.9 yards per game.

Now Gurley, the 6-foot-1, 232-pound junior from North Carolina, is working hard to get past last season’s ankle injury that cost him three games so he can get back on track for his second 1,000-yard season (joined Herschel Walker (1980) as the only other true freshman to rush for over 1,000 yards when he ran for 1,385 yards in his first season in Athens).

Georgia coach Mark Richt is playing it cautious with Gurley this spring.

“Well right now, Todd Gurley has still been bothered by the injury that he had, so I really don’t know what to expect from Todd in the spring,” Richt said. “Let’s say that ankle was 100 percent on Jan. 30th and he’s been doing fine and doing all of the offseason things, we’d hook him up and play ball with everyone else. But right now he’s been less than full speed.

“My guess is that unless he’s completely healed by March 18, there will be some modification to what he’s doing.”

Gurley admits that this has been a tough injury to shake.

“It’s going to take a little time,” Gurley told Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I’ve been down there in the training room just getting healthy. Ron (Corson) and his staff have been doing a good job of helping me get my treatment and try to get back healthy. … I don’t want to have an injury but this is the best time to have one.”

Gurley, who also had a thigh problem all of last season, says his ankle is not a problem. He’s concerned about getting his legs ready for the season.

When asked about the lingering effects of the ankle injury by the media last week, Gurley said, “No. It’s just my leg. You know, whatever, it’s just my legs.”

Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has a different idea than Richt as to what to look for out of Gurley this spring.

“I’ve already talked to Todd about how we’re going to push him in practice. I expect him to go,” said Bobo. “I think that’s the only way you can get better. We’re going to treat him like anybody else. I expect him to get better and give maximum effort.

“I believe he’s at the point in his career, as a third-year guy, he’s got to step up and be a leader for this football team. He’s not a big talker but he can step up and be a leader by how he practices and that’s what I’m looking for this spring.”

The Bulldogs were hit hard by key injuries last season. In addition to Gurley’s problems, tailback Keith Marshall, wide receivers Malcolm Mitchell, Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley were among those also sidelined.

Marshall and Scott-Wesley will not be ready for spring football, but Mitchell may be able to go through non-contact drills. Regardless, a healthy Gurley will be extremely important for the Bulldogs moving forward.