Georgia opens up as the favorite to win the SEC East. They were the favorite when Isaiah Crowell was still on the team, and they are still the favorite with him gone.
And Georgia is no stranger to getting great high school running backs on campus, either. Just take a look at their past recruiting classes, and you can easily see that.
Acquiring talent hasn’t been the problem – developing that talent has been.
All eyes are really on two positions for the Bulldogs in fall camp: running back and offensive line, the two positions that have a direct effect on the running game.
Two guys who have stepped up in fall camp the first week were the two freshmen running backs Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley. And they really need to be ready to contribute this year. Marshall and Gurley are currently competing for the starting job with returners Ken Malcome and Richard Samuel.
Marshall, the higher-rated blue chip recruit from North Carolina, has all the expectations coming with him. He’s a burner who can turn the corner in a hurry, and he has the ability to make defenders look silly in the open field.
Marshall enrolled early and had the benefit of learning the offense in the spring.
“I think it helped me a lot,” Marshall said of going through the spring. “Academically it helped me a lot to get ahead of everybody else. I’ll probably be able to graduate after my junior year. So it’s definitely helped me.”
Marshall remained consistent throughout the spring, summer and fall. Look for him to have a big impact. He’s up to 216 pounds, and he is the ideal weight to compete as a freshman. He rushed for 3,441 yards and 42 touchdowns his junior and senior season.
Todd Gurley, on the other hand, really jumped up on the recruiting big board seemingly out of nowhere. He wasn’t very highly ranked early on, but when prospect evaluations rolled around, Gurley’s name really jumped up the list. Gurley, too, is from North Carolina.
But Gurley has been the standout early in practice, rushing for 58 yards and a touchdown in the first scrimmage.
“Todd, he ran the ball well, but he had some good space provided for him at times where some other guys didn’t. I mean, Marshall had a great three-yard run one time but that doesn’t impress anybody unless you see it in person. I thought all the backs ran well really.”
Gurley was even compared to Trent Richardson by senior safety Shawn Williams.
“I know the hole was kind of crowded and he bounced it outside and took off, and that was it,” Williams said. “You expect him to run inside because he’s a bigger back, and he bounces outside, and took off for 40. All I see is that (jersey number) three, and I’m like: He’s got a little body like Richardson.”
Gurley and Marshall will continue to compete and share playing time with Richard Samuel and Ken Malcome.
But questions remain about the running game. Marshall and Gurley are hoping they can provide some answers this season.