Posted: 1:28 pm Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

Alabama has great group, but Gurley best back in SEC 

By Andy Johnston

When healthy, Todd Gurley is the best running back in the SEC. Bob Andres/AJC

When healthy, Todd Gurley is the best running back in the SEC. Bob Andres/AJC

Lane Kiffin recently lauded Alabama’s group of running backs, and as a whole, they are exceptional.

But the SEC’s best back resides at Georgia.

Not a shock.

Todd Gurley repeatedly has proven that he has the tools — receiving to blocking to hitting the holes to breakaway speed — and as long as he’s healthy, is the best in the SEC.

Some thought LSU’s Jeremy Hill his equal last year, but Hill is now with the Cincinnati Bengals, and Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon might not be the best RB on his own team (see Derrick Henry). And Hillgrove’s Kenyan Drake also excelled last season.

Let’s take a look at the top RBs in the SEC heading into this season. ESPN has ranked SEC teams by RB strength, as a group.

1. Todd Gurley, Georgia: Might be the best RB in the country, and if he goes pro, the first back taken in the 2015 NFL Draft.

2. Mike Davis, South Carolina: He has amazing breakaway ability to go with strength and a low center of gravity.

3. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama: Likely will be the Tide’s feature back, but Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake will receive plenty of carries.

4. Derrick Henry, Alabama: Multi-talented with speed, Henry was the highlight for the Tide in their Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma.

5. Keith Marshall, Georgia: He must return from a severe knee injury, but has proven to be a great compliment to Gurley.

6. Alex Collins, Arkansas: Strong start to his freshman season, but struggled down the stretch, along with the rest of the offense.

7. Terrence Magee, LSU: Took carries from Jeremy Hill last year and will be featured this season after rushing for 626 and eight TDs in 2013.

8. Cameron Artis-Payne, Auburn: Might not be able to do what Tre Mason did last year, but will receive plenty of opportunities in Auburn’s offense.

9. Russell Hansbrough, Missouri: Consistent when called upon as Henry Josey’s backup last year,  he will receive his chance this fall.

10. Jonathan Williams, Arkansas: Another strong back in Arkansas’ offense and will look to improve on his 900 yards rushing in 2013.

With several SEC teams going with new QBs this fall, these backs, and others, might need to carry their offenses for a while.

 

 

75 comments
GloryBetweenTheHedges
GloryBetweenTheHedges

Nick Chubb will come in and  plug that Gurley hole IF he goes through injuries again.

EricJoiner
EricJoiner

Auburns group this year is a reload not a rebuild.  CAP is a great back but the burner in that group is Corey Grant.   Between them and Roc Thomas, Gus's offense is gonna be powerful on the ground again.  



Getting_Older
Getting_Older

I think Gurley could be the best in the nation.  My only question came last year in a few of the games, including FL, where UGA went for it on 4th and short.  Gurley didn't seem to have the mindset to get the first down no matter what.  For someone to be the best in the nation, you have to be able to count on him to get those tough yards when it matters most.


Likewise, with Richt saying he is a Gurley man this year, it makes it sound as if he is going to give Gurley more carries this year.  When you have a talent like Gurley, you have to ride him and give him every opportunity to win the game for you.  I would treat him as if I had another #34.

7mm08
7mm08

Gurley is the best back..Henry could be closing in...we will see if he can take the pounding in the SEC.....that is the big question for him.....UGA has the best stable of backs...crimson tide has the best ol....that is why they all look pretty good....put'em behind UGA line and you would see the difference....and i'm a uGA man

thebucket
thebucket

No doubt Alabama currently has the best stable of backs, but the group @ UGA could challenge them for that title beginning in September. McClendon has been recruiting his a** off at that position for the last couple of years.

iamlistening
iamlistening

A couple of years of ago, Marcus Lattimore was the best RB in the SEC, hands down, injury or no injury. What he did on the field screamed that he was the best RB. The same goes for Todd Gurley. He is the best back in the SEC. Even the overwhelming majority of national pundits are saying he's the best back in the nation. For those arguing against this, put your hatred for Georgia to the side or love for your program on hold and just recognize the talent for what it is. Plus, if you haven't seen the guy play in a couple of games, then you are talking straight out of ignorance. FWIW: I also agree with Mike Davis being labeled as the second best. He's not as big as Todd Gurley but he has the same skill set. I also like Yeldon (needs to stop putting the rock on the carpet). Not sure about Collins because I've only seen one game. The SEC is just loaded with good to great backs. 

stingemyall
stingemyall

Sorry but not by a longshot. Gurley is a fantastic back but the Henry kid at Bama is the best back in the SEC and probably the country.

grh0317
grh0317

Girley may be the fifth best back in the SEC.

Great backs play more than two series per

game Bradley...

forexbomb
forexbomb

Gurley could be the best, but he plays for the perennial pre season National champs....  Once the season starts it's back to reality.. 

Vampire_Bill
Vampire_Bill

Looking forward to seeing Nick Chubb in action.  He's gonna be a monster

RedandBlackDAWG
RedandBlackDAWG

If UGA's OL does it's job this year, Gurley will be the most productive back in the SEC most likely. It is really that simple. If the OL struggles, or even if the defense struggles a lot, the situation and opportunities for Gurley change a lot and affect his performance and chances to shine a lot more. He is a prototype of a back the NFL looks for and I sure hope he can stay healthy so that he gets a chance to really show what he can do for a full season goes.  He do0esn't have to carry the entire load at RB all the time for UGA though, as they are loaded with quality at that position right now. He should be the featured back though because he has the best skill set of the backs right now.

Princess_Leia
Princess_Leia

Is Gurley fast enough to outcome the cops better than his predecessors: W. Ealey, C. King, and I. Crowell?


Probably not.

LostGoat
LostGoat

UGA--best back in the SEC

Alabama---best backfield in the SEC


SC upsets UGA & wins the east

Alabama wins the west with ease


Alabama beats sc by 10+ in the SEC title game


Final 4:  Alabama, Ohio State, FSU, Stanford


FSu wins again---their QB can't be stopped

thebucket
thebucket

I remember watching Gurley warm-up with the other running backs before his first game and telling my wife to look at his calves. They looked like they were cut out of granite. He is definitely a beast, but Yeldon, Davis, Henry, Collins, Drake and others are just as good as Gurley in my opinion. 

KeepOnSmilingWetWillie
KeepOnSmilingWetWillie

Great is used where "really good" is a better description. Yeldon has a problem with fumbles at the worst time and Drake is a fumble waiting to happen. Henry has potential and that means he hasn't done shite just yet. Drake is a world champion on twitter but so far Nick and Lane have been unable to get his cell mounted on the football. Kenyan Drake has a 2nd gear that none of the backs listed have but again if you don't perform when called upon then what does that God given ability matter.

kerryb
kerryb

During the Florida game last season Gurley was only at 75% but he was still the best player on the field.

kerryb
kerryb

The screen game will be added more during this season because Mason is much better than Murray was at it.  That will make Gurley even more dangerous.

BleedingGold
BleedingGold

Would argue him being the best back in the nation in all honesty.

TampGator1
TampGator1

Gurley is without a doubt the best RB in the SEC.  Injury prone, however.  Needs to have a completely healthy season to contend for any post season awards.  If he does stay completely healthy, watch out.  I also expect Kelvin Taylor to make some noise running the ball for Florida this year. 

EricJoiner
EricJoiner

@7mm08 Auburns OL is the best in the conference.  thats not even debatable.  They return the entire unit except for Robinson.  

thebucket
thebucket

@stingemyall  Henry is good and could be the best. But at this point he has had 1 great game. Gurley, Yeldon, and Davis have had multiple games when they have been the difference in winning the game for their teams. Even the Bama guys like WetWillie and Contactor have said the same thing about Henry. As Willie says, "Potential means you haven't accomplished anything (not his word) yet."

Terry1961
Terry1961

NickGerz, Yeldon fumbled 4 times in 2012, and 5 times in 2013, the best running backs do not fumble the football, 9 times in 2 years. 

DawginCO
DawginCO

@Princess_Leia  LOL.  What the hell is "outcome" in that context?  In too big a hurry to insult a Georgia player I see.  Pitiful attempt.

HotDawg
HotDawg

You so funny space geek....Gurley doesn't get into trouble.

Now go suck on jabba the hut.

delane1212
delane1212

@BoomTown 

Why would SC beating UGA in Columbia be an upset.  Hello!  UGA will be the underdogs

HotDawg
HotDawg

I'll bet against it and win.

KeepOnSmilingWetWillie
KeepOnSmilingWetWillie

Gurley has huge hips and so powerful. JMO but he needs to stay below 240 to get his very best from himself. I watched the last qtr of the bowl game with New_Braska and UGA would/should have won that game if #17 and #88 could catch the ball. I know it was wet (pardon the pun) but they both failed twice to catch balls in those last two drives that would have won the game for the Dawgs. Mason did well throwing the ball in those conditions.

ColumbusDawg
ColumbusDawg

Willie, Henry is the biggest beast that "Has not done... yet" in the country. He is going to be probably just as hard to tackle as Gurley. Yeldon looked pretty good against Auburn, it sure was not his fault the game went the way it did. I watched the replay of the 2013 Iron Bowl on ESPNU yesterday. Yeldon ran really wll in that game. Bama and UGA are really close, Auburn will run effectively as well, as bad as I hate to say it.  

kerryb
kerryb

@BleedingGold Yeah, not biased are you?  You know he's the best because you saw him step on the chest of every Tech defensive player the last 2 seasons.

delane1212
delane1212

@TampGator1 

Gurley is my favorite back to watch. I wonder if teams will change defenses to slow him down.  Many big strong backs who take a pounding get a lot of nagging injuries.  He is big, strong and athletic, but Sony and Chubbs will be important for UGA. 

I predict Clemson to do a good job at stopping the Bulldog's running game.  Running or scrambling  QB's kill Clemson defense. 

RedandBlackDAWG
RedandBlackDAWG

@TampGator1  I think the injury prone idea is not really fair to the young man. He was simply used too much at times, due to the injuries and poor play of the OL on the offense, and got wore down somewhat. Give him a good OL, and some support around him, and he will be a lot more productive, and he will also not feel he has to try and win the game by himself. He is a beast when he is healthy but when the opponent knows they can key on him, because the other offensive players do not represent a big threat due to injuries, experience or whatever, he takes a bigger pounding than he or any other player should have to take. Hopefully, UGA can stay healthy as a team this year on offense and be more balanced. He will for sure be the featured back and make some mommas cry, but he can't carry the whole load for the offense.

kerryb
kerryb

@TampGator1 Where is this dumb injury prone idea coming from?  He did not miss a game his Freshman season.  Last season he did not miss a game until an LSU player landed on the outside of his ankle giving him a severe high ankle sprain which most players never would have come back from.  Gurley is NOT injury prone.

DawginCO
DawginCO

@KeepOnSmilingWetWillie  Gurley might need to drop a few pounds to get his kick back.  His legs looked dead in the bowl game.  He just couldn't get to the corner.  I know his ankle and hip were hurting but he looked thick.  He needs to be careful not to eat himself out of a top draft pick.


It's hard to say who is the best back but Gurley is a Heisman guy if he stays healthy.  I don't think he has chronic injury issues, however, so I expect him to be back in top form this fall.  He was tearing LSU a new one until his ankle got rolled.  No one gets out of that without a serious injury.  If he is right, he will do serious damage.

BleedingGold
BleedingGold

@kerryb

And this is why I stay off the UGA blogs.  Even when bidding a compliment, this moron has to attack and pound his beer gut for the sake of a game that college kids are playing.


TampGator1
TampGator1

@kerryb 


Gurley has had minor injury issues including hamstrings and ankle injures that have limited him from becoming the greatest running back in the country, which he is capable of being.  He played hurt or coming off an injury both times vs. Florida....recovered from a hamstring in time to play vs. Florida in 2012 and had the ankle issue last year.  He plays hurt a lot.  But he plays, which says a lot about Gurley.  And he played hurt vs. Florida last year, came out strong anyway, got injured again in the game, and then came back to excel in the second half despite the injury.  He is a great player. He will be even greater is he avoids minor injuries during the season, or major ones.   

POAD2014
POAD2014

@kerryb I guess you didn't watch the Clemson game last year. He missed portions of enough games for it to amount to more than 2 whole games I believe.

twelveofthirteen
twelveofthirteen

@NickGerz @Terry1961  who is talking smack on a UGA article hypocrite? The bammer bubble burst last year against Aubie and then again in the disaster against the sooners. Back to mediocrity for the bammer nation. Has it been that long since Shula?

DewayneDixon
DewayneDixon

Typical Bammer fan! Ride the wagon while you can Gomer!

HotDawg
HotDawg

DawginCo... TG didn't look too heavy in his vacation pics in california.

I'm definitely interested in seeing the two highly recruited freshmen on the field to help out Gurley and Marshall (my oh my, how people have forgotten him).

When it's all said and done this year, UGA might prove to have the best group of backs in the SEC and nation. Depends on how much use we get out of the freshmen and B Douglas, also.

HotDawg
HotDawg

Twelveofthirteen smacks down the jerkGerz....

Way to go man....you can slam!

DawginCO
DawginCO

@HotDawg  Keith needs to learn to pick his feet up in traffic.  In the open field he is ridiculous but you don't get that very often in the SEC.  It seemed like when he'd hit a hole somebody always got an arm out and tripped him up.  I mean shoestring tackles too.  Get those feet up young man!


The freshman are intriguing.  We know Chubb is SEC level as a power back but Michel is so slippery.  It just seemed no one could tackle him in his highlights.  I can't remember having a back that was that quick and he is not small.  Just wait, in a couple of weeks the quotes from the upperclassmen will start rolling in.  Can't wait.

POAD2014
POAD2014

@kerryb well I guess there is and the argument will not be settled until the season is over.

KeepOnSmilingWetWillie
KeepOnSmilingWetWillie

There is no reason to argue with Kerry...he will win and bring you down to his level as well. He knows football. Just ask him.

KeepOnSmilingWetWillie
KeepOnSmilingWetWillie

No doubt is a huge UGA fan but tends to overplay his hand. He has this great big ole trophy case in Athens with not much hardware and dust is a problem.

HotDawg
HotDawg

Talk about overplaying their hand....keep on willie.

And visit Buttes-Mehre before dissing the ole trophy case.

BTW, Did "Dead Bear" magazine crown some bamalama team champs recently, so ya'll can claim another BS championship?

Better watch out. Auburn learned about claiming fake championships recently.

You can both share the same phony trophy case.

KeepOnSmilingWetWillie
KeepOnSmilingWetWillie

I tell you what sport...lets just count Bama's 4 92,09,11,12 and your one in the past 70 years. Is that ok? You have one and it's documented. You talk a great game but you have NOTHING to back you. NOTHING.