September 19, 2012

Taking success in stride

Success has come early for both Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, but both of Georgia's freshmen tailbacks appear to be taking their success in stride.

"He's doing his thing, I'm doing my thing," Marshall shrugged after practice earlier this week.

Both players are certainly opening a lot of eyes.

In just three games, Gurley has already established himself as one of the better backs in the SEC, rushing 28 carries for 276 yards, the fourth-highest total in the league.

Marshall, meanwhile, has chipped in with 182 on 32 attempts, giving Georgia the second-most productive running back combo in the league with 458 rushing yards. The LSU duo of Kenny Hilliard and Alfred Blue top the conference with 573.

"I'm pleased with Todd (Gurley), Keith (Marshall) and (Ken) Malcome. I think we have a good battery of backs. Everybody is staying healthy, everybody is being productive, and everybody is staying fresh. That's a good thing," head coach Mark Richt said. "I'm not saying any given day one of those three might get a bunch of carries. It could happen, but I like how we are rotating them right now."

Off the field, dealing with their new-found fame is still taking some getting used to; even from fellow classmates who Gurley laughed give the occasional double-take whenever they pass he or Marshall by.

"I get that a couple of times a day," the affable Gurley said. "Most people won't come up and ask you, or say something, but I'm like, 'you can talk, I'm not a bad person.' I don't mind."

Gurley has already placed his name in some impressive air.

With 276 yards, that's more than South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore (48-235), Auburn's Onterrio McCaleb (31-214) and Vanderbilt's Zac Stacy (34-258), who Gurley and the Bulldogs (3-0, 1-0) will see Saturday night (7:45 p.m., ESPN2).

"We've both got different styles," said Marshall, who also happens to be Gurley's roommate. "He's more physical than I am right now, but I think I'm a little faster. But we can both get the job done."

Last week, Marshall picked up his first 100-yard game, rushing 10 times for 104 yards in the Bulldogs' 56-20 win over Florida Atlantic.

"I was glad for him to get his first 100-yard game," said Gurley, who has run for 100 yards twice already this year. "That was a big confidence thing for him."

The duo's presence has been a blessing for coaches in other ways as well.

Running back has not exactly been a stable position for the Bulldogs in recent years, following the dismissals of players like Washaun Ealey, Caleb King (academics), Isaiah Crowell and Carlton Thomas.

Both Gurley and Marshall say that fans won't have to worry about any problems with them, as both youngsters are determined to help make the running back position a point of pride.

"Oh yeah, that's what all the running backs are trying to do. We're trying to hold each other accountable, hang out with each other," Gurley said. "Richard (Samuel) and Ken (Malcome), they look out for us when we need them. They do a good job of keeping us focused."

Running backs coach Bryan McClendon agrees.

"Anytime you have a guy who has played in this league like Richard, he can always say 'make sure you do this because this might happen or make sure you look at this because this might happen,'" McClendon said. "These are things as coaches we talk about every day, but when it comes from one of your peers, you take it with a different perspective, so I think Richard has really helped in that aspect."

Neither player shows any sign of letting success go to their head.

"I know I've got to stay humble," Gurley said. "There's a lot of guys helping me out, keeping me humble. I've got my family, coaches talking to me. I just feel like I know what I have to do. I know my team wants me to do the right thing."