Will Todd Gurley rank one day in your all-time dream Bulldogs backfield?

Will Todd Gurley one day rank as one of UGA's greatest running backs? (Sean Taylor / UGA)

Will Todd Gurley one day rank as one of UGA's greatest running backs? (Sean Taylor / UGA)

The other day a Bulldogs fan asked me to look into my crystal ball a bit and predict whether potential Heisman Trophy candidate Todd Gurley will go down in the annals of UGA football as one of the program’s greatest backs.

My answer was that, if he is 100 percent healthy this season and remains that way, he certainly would at least merit being in the conversation.

Gurley definitely is one of the most talented running backs I’ve ever seen playing in Athens. The only problem is we’ve never seen him fully healthy for an entire season. However, even at less than full-speed he’s an awesome back; that last drive against Tech last year was one of the most imposing performances I’ve seen by a Georgia tailback.

If he has the kind of season he’s capable of having in 2014, Gurley likely would be a strong contender in the Heisman voting. And as far as all-time UGA backs go, he’d certainly be jostling with Garrison Hearst for place of honor just behind Hershel Walker.

As Mark Richt told UGA fans in Savannah last week, “When Todd’s healthy and Todd’s in shape he’s as good as anybody I’ve ever been around, up close. I saw film of Herschel Walker, I’ve seen film of other people. But to just say I’ve coached him or had a close-up look at the guy, he could be as good as any of them. Hopefully, he’ll be healthy and if he’s healthy he’ll be in good condition. He loves to play in the big games. He’s a good player.”

It’s just a shame that, unless he’s hurt and misses some games, this is probably the last year the Dogs will have Gurley. Just think what kind of numbers he could put up in a four-season UGA career!

Talking about where Gurley might rank among all those great backs who’ve played for the Red and Black got me to thinking about a piece I wrote five years ago about picking an all-time dream Bulldogs backfield.

Back in May 2009, I wrote this:

Garrison Hearst ranks just behind Herschel Walker in the UGA tailback pantheon. (UGA)

Garrison Hearst ranks just behind Herschel Walker in the UGA tailback pantheon. (UGA)

If you could pick and choose from throughout the ages, who’d be in your all-time Bulldogs dream backfield? Would you try to get Trippi or Sinkwich in there with Herschel? Who’d play fullback? Quarterback?

Particularly at running back, there’s an embarrassment of riches from which to choose. Besides the obvious No. 34, fellow Heisman winner Frank Sinkwich and his 1942 backfield mate Charley Trippi, there’s Willie McClendon, Musa Smith, Hearst, Kevin McLee, Jimmy Poulos, Rodney Hampton, Lars Tate, Terrell Davis, Glynn Harrison, Robert Edwards, Tim Worley and the recently departed Knowshon Moreno, just to rattle off a few.

Stellar fullbacks available include Bill Hartman (longtime assistant coach and Bulldog Club scholarship fund namesake), Theron Sapp (the famed “Drought Breaker” and the fourth player to have his jersey number retired, along with Herschel, Sinkwich and Trippi), Ronnie “Bull” Jenkins, Brad Johnson, Keith Henderson, Mack Strong, Verron Haynes and recent Dog Brannan Southerland.

Then there are the wingbacks, flankers and others playing a position that is now more receiver but originally was one of the halfbacks, including the great Jimmy Orr, Horace King, Gene Washington, Andre Hastings, Brice Hunter, Hines Ward (who was technically a split end after playing tailback and quarterback but often lined up in the slot and still sometimes ran the ball), Terrence Edwards (who went back and forth from split end to flanker), Mohamed Massaquoi (likewise) and star flanker A.J. Green.

You couldn't do better than Andy Johnson for a running quarterback. (UGA)

You couldn't do better than Andy Johnson for a running quarterback. (UGA)

Quarterbacks? Again, lots to choose from, depending on whether you want primarily a running attack (a natural inclination with those tailbacks), a passing attack, or something more balanced like Richt employs. Among your many choices: Johnny Rauch, Zeke Bratkowski, Fran Tarkenton, Larry Rakestraw, Andy Johnson, Matt Robinson, Ray Goff, Buck Belue, Eric Zeier, Mike Bobo, David Greene, D.J. Shockley and Matthew Stafford.

So, who to choose?

My brother Jonathan, a true believer in the running game, said he would “run the wishbone with Herschel, Knowshon and Verron Haynes.”

My other brother, Tim, who thinks outside the box, would go back to the future by running the old wing-T offense (precursor to today’s “wildcat”) with Sinkwich taking the snaps at tailback (technically the quarterback was mostly used for blocking in that offense), Herschel at the other running back position and Trippi or Moreno at wingback. This actually would be a pretty balanced offense since “Flatfoot Frankie” threw for 2,331 yards and rushed for 2,271 yards during his three-year career, scoring 60 touchdowns — 30 rushing and 30 passing. Tim says if he needed a blocking fullback, he’d use the junior-year Southerland, and if Sinkwich were in a passing mode, “I’d have him throw to Hines and A.J.”

Tim’s buddy Van would run a more traditional Dooley-style offense with Herschel at tailback, “Pulpwood” Smith at fullback and Poulos as the other running back. His QB would be Johnson, backed by Greene.

My high school classmate Johnny, who actually favors defensive players, limited his choices to those he saw play but couldn’t limit himself to just four backs in his backfield. Among his choices: tailbacks Harrison (“when he was given the ball, Gliding Glynn did more with it than most other running backs at UGA”) and Hearst (“work horse with results”); fullbacks Ronnie Stewart from the 1981 team (“who do you think opened up those holes?”), Henderson, Haynes and Southerland; and among his quarterbacks was his “personal favorite,” Andy Johnson (one of our Athens High School classmates). Moreno, Johnny said, “left the Dawgs too early to make the dream team.”

OK, now to my own dream backfield.

I’d alternate between the I-formation and more or less a pro set and, of course, Herschel would be a given at tailback. To spell him, I’d have Hearst, who ranks right behind Herschel in most of the Dogs’ rushing records. Just for fun, occasionally I’d load the backfield with both of them.

My change-of-pace back would be the 5-10, 185-pound Sinkwich (especially good for halfback passes) or the 6-0, 186-pound Trippi. With the size of defensive players these days, I’d want to try to get them the ball in open space.

My fullback would be Strong, with Haynes spelling him and giving me another running threat. And I’d have Hines and Orr rotating as my flankers. I’d cheat a bit by adopting the old Dooley two-quarterback system, with Andy directing my running attack and either Tarkenton or Greene chunking the seed.

(2014 update: I might insert A.J. ahead of Orr in my flanker rotation, and Aaron Murray probably now would merit a spot in my QB rotation, too.)

I think we’d score a lot of points.

Your turn. …

ANOTHER FAVORITE DAWG

Shannon Vreeland has been a winner for UGA and the U.S. Olympics team. (UGA)

Shannon Vreeland has been a winner for UGA and the U.S. Olympics team. (UGA)

Congratulations to UGA and U.S. Olympics swimming star Shannon Vreeland, chosen as the 2013-14 Southeastern Conference H. Boyd McWhorter Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Vreeland will receive a $15,000 postgraduate scholarship from AT&T and the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Vreeland, from Overland Park, Kan., is a double-major in Economics and International Affairs and is on target to graduate in December. She currently holds a 3.83 grade point average. She’s also a member of the UGA Honors Program.

And, in the pool, she placed second in the 200 freestyle, fifth in the 100 freestyle and sixth in the 500 freestyle at the NCAAs as the Lady Bulldogs won their second straight national championship. She came in second on the 800 freestyle relay, third on the 400 medley relay and fourth on the 400 freestyle relay at the NCAAs.

Vreeland, a team captain, won the 200 freestyle and placed second in the 100 and 500 freestyle at the SEC Championships as the Lady Bulldogs won their fifth straight title. She finished first on the 400 and 800 freestyle relays and second on the 400 medley relay at the SEC meet.

Oh, and she also won a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics and three gold medals at the 2013 World Championships.

“I am honored and humbled to receive this recognition,” Vreeland said in a UGA news release. “I have coaches, teammates, support staff, professors, classmates and friends who have helped me grow so much during my time in Athens. You are cared for here on so many levels. I’m grateful for what we’ve done in the pool and equally grateful for the educational opportunity I’ve had. I’m pleased to accept this award on behalf of the University of Georgia and everyone associated with Georgia swimming and diving.”

Shannon is what college athletics is all about!

I’m going to be off a few days, but the Blawg will be back next week. In the meantime, keep those Junkyard Mail letters coming to junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

97 comments Add your comment

Deutscheland Domicillary Dog

May 7th, 2014
11:33 am

Pulpwood for all-time Bulldog fullback!

Deutscheland Domicillary Dog

May 7th, 2014
11:34 am

Oh, and, “First”!

Columbus Dawg

May 7th, 2014
11:54 am

Todd Gurley II is going to be the man in 2014. I have not heard him say anything about this being his last year.

1969 Graduate

May 7th, 2014
12:48 pm

Nice article about the backfield. Let’s not forget that a great line makes an average back look a lot better. Not to say these backfield choices are anywhere near average.

If Gurley looks great this year it will reflect upon the line. If he doesn’t it may not be a reflection upon him.

Doesn’t #34 still have a year of college eligibility? If he does, do we have the line to open those holes? To me, it all starts up front.

Go, Georgia Bulldawgs.

WDE

May 7th, 2014
12:48 pm

Todd Gurley …Bee Keeper.

RHall55

May 7th, 2014
1:36 pm

Gotta have a good OL….Will Friend….I doubt it…where is the recruiting news…only one commit in April and talking Ponzi scheme and re-winds of last year? TIME FOR CMR TO WIN A NC!!!!

SAW FLEA FLICKER

May 7th, 2014
1:39 pm

If Gurley stays healthy and oline is even a little above average he will be one of the best(a Heisman and he is just a notch below Walker. A NC and Heisman and he becomes equal with Walker)

All time QB…Kirby Moore!!
Let us begin the AJC Ticker countdown to kickoff!!

Yep!

May 7th, 2014
2:31 pm

To me, Gurley is probably physically 2nd best to Herschel. I think if he could just stay healthy he could be one of the best of All-Time. He’s great no doubt and if he can win that Heisman trophy this year, there’s no way you can’t put him at least top 3 All-Time at UGA. If not top 2. But nobody will ever be greater than Herschel was. At least not in my lifetime.

Don F.

May 7th, 2014
3:06 pm

Your blog shows a photo of UGA swimmer Allison Schmidt, not Shannon Vreeland.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

May 7th, 2014
4:15 pm

Columbus

If you think Gurley is staying after this season it is time for your morning cup of coffee

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

May 7th, 2014
4:17 pm

Had Robert Edwards come to UGA as a fulltime RB and not jostled around at another position and not had those injuries I believe he would be 2nd or 3rd

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

May 7th, 2014
4:23 pm

Unless Gurley pulls a Clowney I would rank him right there with Hearst

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

May 7th, 2014
4:27 pm

On second thought considering the lousy O-line play we continue to see; if Gurley doesnt pull a Clowney this season I probably will put him 2nd if he can make it to 1500 yards

Bill King

May 7th, 2014
5:12 pm

Don. F.:

You’re right. The partial person shown in that shot was Vreeland and the caption information was wrong. It’s now a shot of Vreeland.

HotDawg

May 7th, 2014
8:07 pm

Congrats Shannon!
Those are some of the best Dawg stories.
So many wonderful student-athletes and exceptional people at UGA.
Many times overshadowed by the exception, not the norm, of negative incidents by a few.

HotDawg

May 7th, 2014
8:16 pm

Ray Goff was a heckuva option qb. Practically clinched the ‘76 SEC championship by himself in a 28-0 win at Auburn.

Buzz-Off

May 7th, 2014
8:24 pm

Bill,
I think we had a damn good QB just graduate from UGa. You need to add him to your QB list. Go Dawgs!!!

Da Oracle Grande

May 7th, 2014
9:38 pm

Gurley seems to have the unfortunate combination of a lazy attitude and a propensity for boo-boos. I hope he’s fixed that.

HotDawg

May 7th, 2014
10:09 pm

116 days…..

John Daniel Sobasky

May 7th, 2014
11:10 pm

So we’ve never seen Gurley complete a season without getting hurt? Seems like he played every game of his freshman season. Seriously, do you even research things before you publish them?

RED DOG 77

May 8th, 2014
12:55 am

Bill King Great story!……….I’m sure Dawg Nation is having fun with this one…………..I know I am. Me? I don’t know where to start, it’s like a kid in a candy store thinking of putting your “dream team” together……….I won’t go on but I will comment on a couple DGDs I recall. Matt Robinson was 12 yrs old when I was 13 playing for the Buckhead Red Devils………….Mathew had an amazing arm even that young……….probably the first great “pure passer” at Georgia………Andy Johnson was the Tim Tebow of his time……….he was at least a couple years older than me, my high school played Athens High in the North Georgia playoffs…….”get the picture” I was a pretty stout kid, and afraid of nothing…………..well Mr. Johnson returned a punt, the field opened like the red sea, and he and I hit head-on………..he went straight through me to the end zone, I was on the sidelines shaking the cobwebs out…………Johnson ran the ball for The New England Patriots after Georgia………..I became a salesman……………No Gurley hasn’t proven himself yet………seems too much like Clowny, lazy, afraid he’ll hurt himself, or take too many hits in college……….what ever happened to pinning your ears back and letting loose?……………well that’s my opinion………..again, great fun Bill………….Regards, RED

NoAxeToGrind

May 8th, 2014
5:33 am

Gurley is one of the best backs ever to attend UGA but will not be able to realize his true potential and worth to the program due to the questionable ability of the OL’s he has so far experienced during his career..

RIffRaff

May 8th, 2014
10:56 am

Ray Goff was the best running QB I remember…… “We never had a more effective option runner than Ray Goff. He appeared slow because of his size, but he was really pretty fast. He was a swivel-hipped runner with great leg strength.”

— Vince Dooley, Georgia Bulldogs football head coach

ARdawg

May 8th, 2014
12:06 pm

Flat
Gurley is his own O-Line. A back with his talent makes O-lines look good. That said in my humble opinion, Gurley had been good but to date, he hasn’t been great. At least enough to be mentioned with the likes of Walker, Hearst or Sink. All of that could change this year and I hope that it does. It’s not been Gurley’s fault. He’s splitting the totes with others where the greats didn’t, so much and of course he has been hurt.

Rabun Dawg

May 8th, 2014
3:06 pm

Agree with Red Dog, Andy J was one heck of a runner at qb. Saw about every game HW played, and I believe that I witnessed the greatest rb of all times, at UGA and elswhere..Size,speed,strength, he had it all. A freak of nature for sure! Mr. Gurley may have most of HW’s qualities, but due to injuries and such, I do not think we have seen enough of him to call him one of the greatest. I do not ever remember HW taking a play off, or let injuries bother him. How can we ever forget that Sugar Bowl, dislocated shoulder and all! The greatest by far!!

DawginColorado

May 8th, 2014
3:21 pm

Gurley is within a whisker of Hearst at this point and if he stays healthy this year, he will surpass him as the 2nd best back in Georgia history. I realize that all the gloom patrol guys like to hop on their soap box about how underwhelming our O-line is.because it is against your religion to not take any opportunity to complain. Can’t you give Gurley his due without finding someway to spin into a negative?

old dog

May 8th, 2014
3:59 pm

If (big if) Gurley stays healthy he could be unbelievable, considering that he is not behind a top-notch SEC line.

Old Dawg

May 8th, 2014
5:57 pm

I seem to remember the O-line opening huge holes for Gurley and company last year.

His talent does allow Gurley to turn a short gain in to a long run.

If I remember correctly, the O-line blew open holds for Gurley against Tech in overtime.

Against Nebraska, the Huskers stacked the line and played quality defense in the secondary. It didn’t help that receivers dropped passes in the 4th quarter that could have led to victory.

No area of a team is perfect. But the O-line performed well last year … and they helped set school records for offense!

DawginColorado

May 8th, 2014
6:23 pm

The O-line struggled at times and that was against the top speed rushers we faced. The rushhing game was pretty good all year but took a hit when teams stopped fearing the pass when our top line receivers were out. They still pushed SC all over the field and Spurrier said so. We won the line of scrimmage against LSU as well. That game wouldn’t have been as close as it was if Gurley hadn’t gone down. He still almost had more yardage than Hill in only 1 and fraction quarters.

Look around and if you expect to see an O-line like Bama had in 2012 again any time soon you will be disappointed. Auburn’s line was pretty good last year but they had the benefit of an offense that allowed them to pass block 4 or 5 yards down field sometimes. That allows the deception of their offense to be that much more effective.

No our line wasn’t dominating but it was good and when the offense is balanced it is plenty good enough. I am sure that Bobo would like for it to be even better and we’ll see what happens in the fall.

RED DOG 77

May 9th, 2014
12:37 am

Old Dawg………….Yer damn straight, partner…………RED

RED DOG 77

May 9th, 2014
12:45 am

Rabun Dawg 5/8 3:06pm………….Now that post was weird……..like an out of body experience or something………..I could not agree with a post more than that one………..Dead on the money!………..Keep the Bulldog faithful strong up there in Gods country………….Regards, RED

Top Row Dawg

May 9th, 2014
7:10 am

Nothing controversial to add. Rauch, Sinkwich, Murray, Greene, Stafford, dang we’ve had some good Q.B.’s

Walker, Hearst, Moreno, Hampton, Gurley, Trippi, wow the guys left off this list.

Orr, Greene, Edwards, Ward, Brice Hunter, man o man we should have at least one WR in the College or Pro HOF.

Can’t wait to visit the College HOF when it opens.

I dropped my fried twinkie

May 9th, 2014
8:13 am

I fell asleep. I missed where and who drafted Box Score Murray in the first round.

DawginColorado

May 9th, 2014
9:43 am

You didn’t just drop your Twinkie there. No one has said a single word about Murray going in the first round. Nice try.

DawginLex

May 9th, 2014
11:57 am

Nice troll job twinkie boy

Murray will play in the NFL and then be a success in life after football while you continue asking folks “Do you want fries with that?”

RED DOG 77

May 9th, 2014
12:22 pm

“twinkie boy”…………….I like that………..seems to fit, doesn’t it Lex?……………RED

RED DOG 77

May 9th, 2014
12:31 pm

Murray may not be the QB Drew Brees is, but I do see him making it in the NFL……..the young man seems to have a certain “grit ” to him…………he’ll do well, I feel sure……..and as Lex says he will “be a success in life”……………and of that I am confident.

Rabun Dawg

May 9th, 2014
3:41 pm

RED, seems as though every vehicle in Rabun County has a “G” on the front bumper. Now, we know that most did not attend the UGA, but a very loyal fan base that pulls for the Flagship U of the State. Blessed to be able to call Rabun home!! Regards to you as well!

Rabun Dawg

May 9th, 2014
3:43 pm

Forgot to second the motion about Murray. Whether or not he makes in the pros or not, AM will be a success in life whatever he does. A DGD for sure!!

Get The Picture

May 9th, 2014
4:20 pm

Lots of DGD’s up there in Rabun, Scott Woerner, George Bobo just to mention a couple.

DawginColorado

May 9th, 2014
6:16 pm

This is the way the Junkyard Blawg should be like. Real Dawg fans just bantering back and forth. But one of the doom crew will come along spewing negative crap that doesn’t help or solve a damned thing. I guess we should be happy while this lasts.

DawginColorado

May 9th, 2014
6:24 pm

If anybody actually doubts Nick Chubb is the real deal check this out:

“Chubb won the Class AAAA shot put Thursday afternoon on his final throw of 55 feet.

The 5-foot-11, 226-pound Chubb will show off his motor today after qualifying in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and the 4×100 meter relay.

“I’m planning to medal, place in everything I do — top three in everything hopefully,” he said.

He ran a 10.69 in the sectionals in the 100 and is seeded second.”

Just think what kind of stiff arm he could give a would be tackler? Or should I say “some poor schlub trying to tackle him.” I pity the fools. LOL

Dog4Life

May 9th, 2014
8:16 pm

10.69 sec in the 100m, for a 226lb person, is awesome!!!

BOB

May 9th, 2014
9:09 pm

Shaq Wiggens transfer is the tip of the iceberg – there is a new sheriff in town named Jeremy Pruitt and he is going to demand that everyone is on the same page and hold everyone accountable, no matter how many stars they earned back in High School. Add this leadership style to his recruiting ability and you have HC material.

RED DOG 77

May 10th, 2014
1:01 am

Colorado………Pretty nice conversation, eh? I agree with you, I think the thing to do is when one of these fools shows his backside……….Give ‘em the business hard and fast…………then get back to our enjoyable college football conversation………..Looks to me like the negative has created a “positive” coalition………….If this group sticks together, we may not always agree, but we can damn sure keep a couple “trolls” at bay……….whadaya think my friend?…………RED

RED DOG 77

May 10th, 2014
1:11 am

Bob, I believe you’re right!……….and while I’m sorry to see Wiggins go, thought he would have done much better this year………..I see coach Pruitt’s fingerprints all over it……….He just flat-out isn’t going to take anything less than the best effort from all his players…………As I’ve said before: Coach Richt has never had any problem lighting up the scoreboard, it’s the D that we’ve had problems with….maybe the tide s beginning to turn………. I’m hoping Pruitt is Richt’s Erk Russell……….now wouldn’t that be sweet?

RED DOG 77

May 10th, 2014
1:26 am

Colorado……Speaking of Nick Chubb, I couldn’t agree more. I remember when Gurley and Marshall were being recruited……most were drooling over Marshall and Gurley seemed an afterthought………sort of the way I see Sony Michel and Nick Chubb………..don’t get me wrong, I wish all recruits well, and respect Keith Marshall……….but this Bulldog thinks Nick Chubb is going to be flat-out unstoppable…………I think if everyone stays healthy……….Nick Chubb will be sharing touches with Todd Gurley…………It sad Marshall had to get hurt, but I think he is pushing it trying to come back this year[you saw that hit]………If he would only give it one more year to heal, he would give himself some separation, and probably secure a better draft position

RED DOG 77

May 10th, 2014
1:39 am

Colorado……….I see it the same with Nick Chubb……….remember two years ago the buzz about Marshall and Gurley?………Seems like Gurley was almost an afterthought……….everyone was drooling over Marshall……….don’t get me wrong, I love Keith Marshall, but Gurley turned out to be the stud……….Looks very much the same with Sony Michel and Chubb………..Sony Michel is rated higher, but I think we will see Todd Gurley sharing touches with Nick Chubb by about game four………….and if they remain healthy?………..whooooa that’ll wear down any D

RED DOG 77

May 10th, 2014
1:48 am

Rabun Dawg……Thanks for the reply……….I used to own a cabin up off War Woman road and yes I’ve seen all the “G” ’s up your way………….I’m from down around Lake Lanier and we have a heap of Bulldogs down this way as well………….I’m hoping coach Pruitt can shape-up the D and we can get back to national championship conversation soon…………..GO DAWGS

I-DOG

May 10th, 2014
11:46 am

So many great backs from the UGA program. Gurley’s story is still being written. He is one of the most violent runners I have seen. He reminds me of some of the recent Alabama backs. You can tell he has a passion for the game and gives great effort.

Some of my favorites since Dooley exited have been Hearst, Edwards, and Moreno.

I certainly hope our gameplan is to feature Gurley and the other backs, but I don’t know if that is Bobo and Richt’s natural inclination. Will they adapt to their personnel?