It was love at first sight for Georgia and tailback Todd Gurley


Following is a story on Georgia freshman tailback Todd Gurley that ran in Thursday’s print section of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Below you will find some bonus commentary from Tarboro High School coach Jeff Craddock that was unable to fit into the story. . . .

Georgia running backs coach Bryan McClendon knew right away he wanted to bring Todd Gurley to Athens. (UGA photo by Evan Stichler)

Georgia running backs coach Bryan McClendon knew right away he wanted to bring Todd Gurley to Athens. (UGA photo by Evan Stichler)

ATHENS — Georgia running backs coach Bryan McClendon remembers distinctly when he first got the heads up about the big back from Tarboro, N.C.

McClendon had just come off the road during an open recruiting period and planned to spend a couple of days around the house when he got a call from a coach in North Carolina. That coach told McClendon, “I’ve seen this guy, and I really think you need to check him out.”

Skeptical at first, McClendon asked the coach to send him some video so he could get a look. A video file arrived via email a short time later and McClendon decided to check it out before he forgot.

“I called that coach that same day and said, ‘hey, I’m going to be up there tomorrow,’” McClendon said. “I flew up there the next day.”

That was the spring of 2011, and it was the first time McClendon laid eyes on Todd Gurley. Seventeen months later the freshman tailback has been the talk of the Bulldogs’ preseason. So while Gurley’s performance has been a surprise to many, it hasn’t been to McClendon or to the coach who made that call.

“As soon as I saw the film, I knew he was a guy who had everything you wanted,” McClendon said.

Georgia’s early interaction with Gurley helped the Bulldogs land the four-star prospect over Clemson, North Carolina and at least a dozen other serious suitors. Nine days before the Bulldogs’ season opener, it’s clear that the 6-foot-1, 218-pound speedster will at least be in Georgia’s tailback rotation this season. That is, if he doesn’t become the first freshman since Danny Ware in 2004 to start an opener at tailback for the Bulldogs.

“I’m not at all surprised that Todd is doing this well,” said Jeff Craddock, who won three consecutive state championships with Gurley at Tarboro High. “I told Todd from Day 1, if he stays humble and he stays healthy that I’ll be watching him play in the NFL. I really believe that about him.”

Gurley gained just under 4,000 yards and scored 65 touchdowns in two seasons as a starting halfback at Tarboro. In his last high school game he rushed for 242 yards and four touchdowns to win the Class AA state championship.

“He’s a hard-working kid who has been blessed with tremendous size and speed and talent,” Craddock said. “I’ve been able to watch him for four years. There was no question in my mind he was going to go down there and do great things. What people are seeing now I think is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Of course, Gurley hasn’t really done anything yet. All he’s done to this point is out-gain Georgia’s other tailbacks 2-to-1 in two scrimmages. Including two pass receptions, he had 167 yards and three touchdowns on 15 touches. Incumbent starter Ken Malcome, a sophomore, was next with 67 yards on 10 attempts.

But Gurley’s unique combination of power and speed — he was an IAAF World Youth semifinalist in the 110-meter hurdles in France in 2010 — has teammates comparing him with former Alabama star Trent Richardson.

“I think he probably compared me to him because I wear No. 3 and I have dreads like Trent Richardson,” Gurley said with a laugh. “I have a long, long, long way to go to be like Trent Richardson. But for one of the key leaders on the team to call me that, that’s big.”

It was a fellow signee from North Carolina — Raleigh’s Keith Marshall — who created all the buzz in Georgia’s 2012 recruiting class. Marshall was considered the nation’s No. 1-rated running back prospect by more than one major recruiting site and he committed to Georgia well before Gurley did. But few were aware that Gurley and Marshall had made a pact to attend the same college.

Said Marshall: “We wanted to go to the same school. . . . We thought we can really make each other better. Rarely does one guy carry the load, so that’s not something we’re worried about.”

McClendon didn’t learn the two backs were buddies until later. Needless to say, he was excited to find out.

“They were sort of joined at the hip through all that track stuff they do,” McClendon said. “Both of those guys are big track guys. Todd was running on the USA team over there and Europe and Keith has all the super-fast track times as well. So they were connected through that. Not only that, they grew up an hour apart and went on a bunch of recruiting things together. So they knew it. That was something they worked out, that they wanted to play with each other. I found that out after we were already going after both of them, so it worked out good for us.”

At the time, Isaiah Crowell was still in the Bulldogs’ plans. Of course, he was kicked off the team in June after a felony weapons arrest. But McClendon said they never considered not signing both Gurley and Marshall if they were willing to come.

“Those guys? No,” he said. “You were going to take both those guys no matter what.”

BONUS MATERIAL

Tarboro High School head coach Jeff Craddock had a lot to say about his former pupil. Following are some of the highlights:

On what makes him special . . .

“He’s a hard-working kid who has been blessed with tremendous size and speed and talent. I’ve been able to watch him for four years and there was no question to me he was going to go down there and do great things. What people are seeing now I think is just the tip of the iceberg. He’s just going to continue to get bigger, faster and stronger and get more comfortable in that system. I think he’s just going to be phenomenal to watch. People down in Georgia are going to be pleased as long as Todd Gurley is there.”

On Gurley being soft-spoken . . .

“He’s a humble guy and he gets it. He knows what he has is a special gift from the Lord and he understands that. He’s going to make everybody back home very proud.”

On going to the same school as Marshall . . .

“When me and Todd talked about recruiting, I told him, ‘it doesn’t matter who is going to the school you want to go to. That doesn’t make a difference. Your choice needs to be about what you think is the best fit for you. If they sign four of the best running backs in the nation and you still want to go there, then go there and beat them all out. Go to a school you want to play at.’ And Georgia filled the bill.”

On comparisons of Marshall and Gurley . . .

“I watched Keith Marshall from afar and he is a tremendous running back. Of course, I’m biased, but I did tell Coach Richt when Todd signed, I said, ‘I know what everybody in the country is telling you, but I’m telling you, now you’ve got the best running back in the country.’ That’s what I believe. Now Keith Marshall is great and I hope they’re a great one-two punch and I know they get along wonderfully. I just believe Todd wasn’t getting the credit he deserved.”

On Gurley’s recruiting rankings . . .

“He was a 3-star for a while and I’m thinking, ‘my God, if my guy is a 3-star, show me what a 4- or 5-star player looks like.’ Again, I know I’m biased, but I thought if Todd Gurley wasn’t a 5-star running back, then I must be missing the boat.”

On Gurley’s recruitment . . .

“I think he was kind of overlooked, which is fine. It didn’t bother Todd. Todd’s going to be Todd. He’s going to work hard and be humble. He’s going to be something special. I believe that with all my heart.”

On Gurley playing junior varsity as a sophomore . . .

“I don’t think he ever had a carry. We saw early he was something special. But what people don’t understand, the year we pulled him up as a sophomore, we won the state championship. We had a great stable of running backs who were seniors. We went about five deep and we went 15-1, so I was comfortable with them. I pulled him up for the playoffs, he was on kickoff returns and we got him on the field. He had a few carries. But I was blessed to have talent in front of him and could afford to keep him on JV. Of course, he dominated in JV ball. Sometimes it was just unfair. The JV team went 10-0. He came up as a junior and he started and played like we thought he would.”

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96 comments Add your comment

Hoops Dawg

August 22nd, 2012
11:19 pm

I had a feeling that Todd might turn out to be the beast of this class.

Hammerhead

August 22nd, 2012
11:23 pm

Can’t wait!

Goldenrod

August 22nd, 2012
11:26 pm

First!

THWG!!

Jackets Run This State!!!

Henry

August 22nd, 2012
11:27 pm

This guy is getting hype but he’s worked hard, and it shows in the scrimmages. I hope this guy goes on to have a great career at UGA and when he hangs up his cleats for UGA for the last time, he can turn around and say “I gave it all I had.” with some rings to show for it. GOOOO DAWGS! GATA!

A. Bishop

August 22nd, 2012
11:33 pm

A. Bishop

August 22nd, 2012
11:34 pm

Looks like the idiot Goldenrod has signed on at his moms house. It must suck to be 45 and still living with your mother.

longtimedawg from nc via ga

August 22nd, 2012
11:34 pm

i saw him play in the state semi in bladen co

Remarkable

August 22nd, 2012
11:39 pm

These guys are going to run all over people in the fourth quarter if our O-line stays healthy. I can’t wait to see what it will look like. Ken Malcome might want to switch to another position, but what if they all four play only one quarter each? Wow. What a running game that could be. It looks like we could be known as tailback U again.

Just Asking?

August 22nd, 2012
11:40 pm

Hey, is Goldenrod your porn name? Just Asking?

P_The_Ricker

August 22nd, 2012
11:48 pm

hoping that gurley pans out to be the real deal….but history is against him.

every year the ajc over-covers an offensive player and over-hypes them. from tony wilson in ‘07, shawn chappas in ‘08, joe cox in ‘09, branden smith in ‘10 to marlon brown in ‘11. don’t like saying brown on account of his injuries suffered last year, but the fact remains the same…..if the ajc beat writers force feed the public a certain player w/ no accomplished game experience…his season will likely be a bust, or at least not even come close to built-up expecations.

Grantham's The Man!

August 23rd, 2012
12:15 am

I’ve been telling people that the kid was underrated. Richt really found a sleeper in Gurley.

It’s too bad about Crowell because he has talent but with Samual, Malcome, Gurley and Marshall on board, Georgia won’t miss a beat. Go Dawgs!!!

Grantham's The Man!

August 23rd, 2012
12:28 am

@P_The_Ricker.

I just don’t get your post?

Shawn Chappas was a great FB for Ga, who is now with the Dallas cowboys. Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno, Crowell, Murray, A J Green, and on and on. Every team has a few players that don’t come in and light the world on fire, but Ga has had many more hits than misses.

Gurley has earned every bit of his pub. Either get on the wagon, or go to your real teams blog.

Go Dawgs!!!

Pj

August 23rd, 2012
12:33 am

Every single thing about this kid has been positive. I think we’ve got another Tim Worley/Rodney Hampton on our hands. As Barr scott famously said – “CAN’T WAIT!”

Dawg Dawg Dawg

August 23rd, 2012
12:40 am

My wife is reading this over my shoulder and just said, “The first six paragraphs of this article sound a little g-a-y.”

Pj

August 23rd, 2012
1:11 am

One thing I look at is if the skill players speak intelligently, articulately, show deference to their coaches and teammates in their interviews and how quickly the staff acknowledges they are handling the playbook. Here are some guys who weren’t impressive in those categories – Crowell, jasper sanks, Caleb king, washuan ealey, Fred Gibson, Quincy carter.
Here are some guys who passed my litmus test in those categories: musa smith, Reggie brown, massaquoi, Ben Watson, aj green, Terrell davis, verron Haynes, David Greene, dj Shockley, Malcolm Mitchell.
The new guys that seem to be following the path of the “good guys” so far are Marshall, gurley, lemay, chris Conley and Arthur lynch. Justin scott Wesley too.
We have some smart, articulate disciplined skill guys and I’m glad our numbers are down – the payoff is we have a smarter team with very little dead weight in the attitude and discipline department.
I get annoyed when people say “mark it down” – like anyone is gonna remember – but if when Marshall and gurley become the second of Cadillac/Ronnie brown – I was one of many dawgs who said it!

Paddy

August 23rd, 2012
1:20 am

Goldenrod…..you do realize that nobody cares what you post.

Henry

August 23rd, 2012
1:42 am

I can’t wait to bust a nut!

just a fan

August 23rd, 2012
6:26 am

I have a set of season tickets in the 300 section for sale if you are interested or would like more information you can contact me at fantasynfl3100@yahoo.com

Destin Dawg

August 23rd, 2012
7:05 am

7 days can’t wait.. Vandy will beat S.C.. in Nashville next week !!

Destin Dawg

August 23rd, 2012
7:07 am

I”m nervous.. 2 weeks vs. Missouri in Columbia at night..

here we go again

August 23rd, 2012
7:11 am

Here we go with the ajc hype machine I understand tg has tons of potential but can he get a few sec games under his belt before we have daily stories about him! Cmon ajc step it upup

JoeFann

August 23rd, 2012
7:14 am

Hope the helmet continues to fit for a few years. Sounds like a great start for a fine young man. Nice to hear something other than negatives about players for a change. Having your head screwed on straight at 17/18/19 has become the exception rather than the rule. Stay humble, Todd. The attention your hard work brings will pay off much better than the attention brought by talking.

Go Dawgs!

Jim

August 23rd, 2012
7:18 am

Hope to see great things from Todd and all the UGA running backs this year. Sounds as Craddock knows how to develope players. Maybe we should look at hiring him.

RedandBlackDAWG

August 23rd, 2012
7:36 am

If folks would just learn to not respond and further encourage these idiot trolls, they would go away. They really don’t have anything pertinent to add to the comments and people encourage them, by even responding to them. I have found out that it is just a waste of time anyway.
Gurley is going to tear up the field. He has the size quickness and attitude to be an all American before he is done at UGA. The quartet UGA has at RB, can be slotted in as the situation dictates to give opposing defenses nightmares. Gurley especially, can get to the outside as quick as anybody and once he does, he is a load to bring down. He will have some long runs this year, and make a lot of momma’s defensive boys, look bad.

BobDog

August 23rd, 2012
7:36 am

Pj

It was Tim Worley and Keith Henderson, but Henderson didn’t have the speed of Gurley. Your comparison with Hampton may be better, but he came along later.

MODERATOR

August 23rd, 2012
7:43 am

FACEBOOK.COM/AJCUGA

Buzz 2011

August 23rd, 2012
7:43 am

Bring back Jim Donnan.. Give those Dogs some swagger!!

Kerryb

August 23rd, 2012
8:04 am

Destin Dawg

August 23rd, 2012
7:07 am

I”m nervous.. 2 weeks vs. Missouri in Columbia at night..

_______________________________________________________________

Why are you worried?? You would think we were playing LSU in Baton Rouge at night by your comment.

Bogey

August 23rd, 2012
8:08 am

Destin. I will be rooting for Vandy but don’t think they can pull it off. Can you imagine Spurrier knowing his season ended in game one? Nice to dream.

Kingdaddy

August 23rd, 2012
8:32 am

CMR is keeping his cards close this year, not showing his hand. Don’t look for anything but vanilla till Missouri. Doubt we will see much new there unless we are having a hard time scoring. Probably saving some goodies for Lil Stevie …

GTT

August 23rd, 2012
8:53 am

Run, run, run and then run some more.

Alphare

August 23rd, 2012
9:10 am

“Georgia running backs coach Bryan McClendon knew right away he wanted to bring Todd Gurley to Athens.”

Did he know right away when he saw Crowel?

ARdawg

August 23rd, 2012
9:15 am

P Ricker

I don’t get you post there guy. The names you rattled off are good/great players with an exception. Bad planning/poor coaching doesn’t change that. Chappas was one of the best FBs in memory at UGA

what of it?

August 23rd, 2012
9:22 am

That has to be one of the cheesiest headlines I’ve ever read.

Gurley and UGA are totally gay for each other

BILLY JACK

August 23rd, 2012
9:24 am

I think we all can be proud of this kid.He seems to be a cut above on and off the field.

Tide4Life

August 23rd, 2012
9:33 am

I typically like to call out the uga mutts for being better in their own minds than reality. uga is not an elite program – has been great a few times in their history – good quite a few times – and mediocre and just plain poor more than uga fans admit.

Now – with all that said – it’s players like Gurley that you build a program around. uga did a great thing by getting a kid like this. This is the type of young man – he and Marshall – that can raise you from good to great. great to elite. T. Richardson was humble, quiet, and just a beast. maybe, just maybe – Gurley is made from the same cloth.

Yes, I know that he has never played in college – but coming in as a freshman and not having the pressures – like Crowell did – is a great thing for this kid.

Good story.

one last thing suckas …………………….ROOOLLLLL TIDE!

Ogeechee Dawg

August 23rd, 2012
9:37 am

@tide4life – are you getting soft? What? Are you throwing us poor, poot Bulldogs a bone? You actually stated something positive related to Georgia football on this blog. Hell must be freezing over!

G-Dawg

August 23rd, 2012
9:43 am

Gurley-Man gonna put a hurtn on some SEC teams during his career!! Looking forward to seeing all these true freshman compete this year. Some very good talent in that small class.

Lonnie

August 23rd, 2012
9:45 am

JB

August 23rd, 2012
9:52 am

Hoping for the best. Haven’t seen ” a hole” for our running backs in about three years. Go Dawgs.

1eyedJack

August 23rd, 2012
10:01 am

6-1 and 220 lbs. as a freshman, that’s almost Herschelesque size-wise. He’s probably a few thousand push-ups and sit-ups behind and a couple tenths of a second in the 40 off though.

BKbroila

August 23rd, 2012
10:02 am

Tide4Life….you do realize that you are not on the field and nobody on Alabama’s team gives two shtts if you live or die….grow up!!!
On the other hand, you are right…If not for Richt putting UGA back on the map and going 3-1 against Alabama, winning record against AU/GT/Tenn/mostly splitting with LSU….then I believe we would be Mediocre….I hate to tell you this, but CMR has a better winning percentage that your coach…It’s been a tough 4 years for us dawgs, but that’s my team….I get sick and tired of the criticism, but it is well deserved most of the time…That being said….Go back to your trailer, and know that a percentage of your money you spend on Alabama gear is going to pay for Saban a new set of Vineers…time to trade those chompers in….

Sven Ottke

August 23rd, 2012
10:08 am

Oh wait…now THIS one is the next Herschel. Okay, I got it. I thought it was the previous 25 or so we heard about. But wait, wasn’t Malcome named the projected starter a day or so ago? Some things you can’t make up! High comedy.

Bob Saccomanno

August 23rd, 2012
10:10 am

I have a felling TG’s off-seasonn will translate very well this fall. Our O-line will surprise and if we keep TO’s and special team shannangin’s to a minimum we have chance for special year..

-Ain’t no one finer in the land…..

UGA football fans

August 23rd, 2012
10:12 am

Everybody needs to like this page facebook.com/ajcuga

Tampa Gator is paranoid

August 23rd, 2012
10:14 am

I love this time of year..wait, is someone impersonating me again?

bucket

August 23rd, 2012
10:16 am

I love that last story about Gurley playing JV as a Sophomore. It says alot about Gurley’s character that he was willing to wait his turn. I think he will take the same approach at UGA and explode out on the field when he gets his chances. If he is as good as it appears, he won’t have any trouble rising to the top of the depth chart given time.

In totally unrelated news, Joe Schaad is reporting that Darick Rogers has played his last down @ UT. I guess time will tell.

bham dawg

August 23rd, 2012
10:21 am

We have a special one here boys. Enjoy it for 3 years.

DawginLex

August 23rd, 2012
10:26 am

UT got Darick rogers and we got Kenarious Gates

We win!!!!!!!!!

We play SEC ball

August 23rd, 2012
10:30 am

We need em all, incl Harton and Karumpolis or whatever his name is.

SEC pounding requires SERIOUS QUALITY depth at R back position. You can never have too many.

IC was yellow ………..he could not take the pounding.

GO Dogs