HOOVER, Ala. — Todd Gurley downplays talk of being a potential Heisman Trophy candidate, but the Georgia running back can’t contain a smile at the mention of one milestone that’s probably unrealistic.
What would it be like to run for 2,000 yards like Boston College’s Andre Williams did last season?
“If I could get 2,000 yards, that would be awesome,” Gurley said Thursday at Southeastern Conference media days. “If the Lord would bless me with that, oh my gosh. That’s going to be pretty hard to do in the SEC.”
Pretty hard to do at Georgia, too, with a backfield that also includes Keith Marshall and other highly recruited backs. But a player can dream.
Gurley was one of numerous key Bulldogs players who were injured during an 8-5 season. He missed three games but still flirted with 1,000 yards and has run for 2,374 yards and 27 touchdowns in two seasons.
He and Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon are the marquee tailbacks in a league that’s short on experienced quarterbacks but has three 1,000-yard rushers returning from last season, not even counting Gurley or Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall.
There’s also Arkansas’ Alex Collins and South Carolina’s Mike Davis among others. It’s a deep group in a season when Georgia and other teams are breaking in new starting quarterbacks.
Gurley was asked if there’s a friendly competition among the running backs.
“Who wouldn’t want to lead the SEC in rushing yards?” he said. “I just go out there and do my game. I don’t worry about what other people do. I definitely respect their game and I definitely watch their tapes. I show respect, but it’s not really a competition.”
Star running backs like Auburn Heisman finalist Tre Mason and LSU’s Jeremy Hill have joined the trend of SEC running backs leaving early for the NFL. Gurley will be eligible after this season.
“Whether Todd stays another year or not, I don’t know,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “But if he stays healthy, I think he’s one of the better players in America, no doubt about it. Hopefully he stays healthy.
“I see that he’s getting into great condition. If we continue to get him in great condition for this season, I think the sky’s the limit for him.”
Gurley doesn’t think he’ll necessarily shoulder more of the offensive load with the departure of prolific quarterback Aaron Murray. Hutson Mason has taken the reins after starting the final two games after Murray sustained a knee injury.
“Hutson’s a great quarterback,” Gurley said. “He’s going to throw and he’s going to lead this team. We’re going to run the same offense that we always do.”
As for the Heisman, he said that’s “just for the fans” and more of a team thing. Becoming a contender might depend not only on Gurley staying healthy but on the Bulldogs’ fortunes after falling hard from a No. 5 preseason ranking during an injury-riddled 2013.
“You have to be on a great team,” Gurley said. “You can’t be on an 8-5 team and expect to win the Heisman because it’s definitely not going to happen. If I was able to reach that goal I would definitely love to have it.
“It would be because of my teammates.”