November 1, 2012

Gurley welcomes more work

Shawn Williams' words have already raised their share of eyebrows this year.

Last week, it was his comments about Georgia's defense playing "soft" that appeared to help spur the Bulldogs to their 17-9 win at then No. 3 Florida. But that wasn't the only time the senior safety said something that perked up some ears.

Before the season even began, Williams was asked about running back Todd Gurley, and who the North Carolina freshman reminded him of.

When he offered the name of former Alabama star Trent Richardson, more than a few people rolled their eyes.

It turns out Williams was right about that, too.

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze apparently agrees, not just about the Gurley comparison, but the combination he forms with fellow freshman Keith Marshall.

"It's almost like they took Trent Richardson," Freeze said. "I think he's playing for them on Saturday and someone else on Sunday. The size-speed ratio those kids have is pretty phenomenal for freshmen backs. They're a great challenge and arguably as good as we've faced."

Eight games into the season, Gurley is starting to bear a striking resemblance to the former Crimson Tide running back, and we're not just talking about the dreads that stick outside the back of his helmet. He's running like Richardson, too.

Gurley enters Saturday's SEC showdown (3:30, CBS) against Ole Miss (5-3, 2-2) as the league's third-leading rusher with 120 carries for 740 yards and 10 scores, following his 118-yard effort in last week's win against the Gators.

"It felt pretty good, but the line and my receivers opened up the holes," Gurley said. "I was able to get the yards, but now it's time to move on and worry about Ole Miss."

The Rebels are certainly worried about Gurley, along with Marshall, who has rushed for 492 yards and five touchdowns.

Against the Gators, however, it was Gurley who shouldered most of the load, earning a career-best 27 carries in becoming the first back to rush for over 100 yards against Florida this year.

"I had talked to Coach (offensive coordinator Mike) Bobo and he said he was going to try and give me a lot more carries," Gurley said. "I was thankful that I did."

It didn't take Gurley long to find his rhythm.

Following a Gator fumble on the opening series, Gurley scored from 10-yards out to give the Bulldogs a quick 7-0 lead.

"I thought it was probably underrated as far as what people talked about at the end of the game. There were so many things to talk about in that game. I thought it was a tremendous performance, that many carries against that physical of a defense," head coach Mark Richt said. "To average 4.4 (yards per carry) and not really have a long run, that was a heck of a game, and his ball security was tremendous. I think early in the game he got hit pretty good. Something was bothering him. It wasn't an injury that kept him out, obviously, but he got stung pretty good early on and didn't say much about it. He just kept going."

The typically low-keyed Gurley did get a little carried away after crossing the goal line as he drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty for doing the "Gator Chomp," emulating a move he saw teammate Blake Tibbs do last year in a high school game against Stephenson.

"Coach Bobo asked me what the heck that was and I told him," Gurley said. "It was stupid. I usually just take a knee."

Florida certainly made Gurley work for every yard he was able to earn.

"After you keep getting those small runs, eventually something is going to open up," he said. "I was just glad I was able to carry the load and get that second wind."

As for Saturday's game against Ole Miss, Gurley isn't making any predictions regarding how much coaches will use him against the visiting Rebels (5-3, 2-2).

"However they want to use me is fine with me. I don't care if I rush for two yards if we can get the win," Gurley said. "But we're going to try and get the run game going. We just want to keep moving on and on."