Best freshman tailback? Georgia’s Todd Gurley or Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon

A plethora of long runs, such as this one against Tennessee, is what has separated Todd Gurley from a lot of other freshman backs in the SEC this season. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

A plethora of long runs, such as this one against Tennessee, is what has separated Todd Gurley from a lot of other freshman backs in the SEC this season. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

ATHENS – Seeing how he’s now considered a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny “Football” Manziel would seem a shoo-in for SEC Freshman of the Year. But the argument over who might be the best freshman running back in the league remains a good one that might not be settled until after Saturday’s SEC Championship game.

Both Alabama and Georgia received all they could have hoped for from their first-year backs. The Bulldogs have been led all season by Todd Gurley, a 6-foot-1, 218-pound true freshman from Tarboro, N.C. Gurley became the first UGA true freshman since Herschel Walker in 1980 to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season when he broke the barrier two weeks ago. He enters the SEC title game with 1,138 yards and 15 touchdowns, including a 100-yard kickoff return.

Alabama's T.J. Yeldon has gained 291 fewer yards and scored four fewer touchdowns than Gurley will splitting time with Eddie Lacy. (AP photo)

Alabama's T.J. Yeldon has gained 291 fewer yards and scored four fewer touchdowns than Gurley will splitting time with Eddie Lacy. (AP photo)

T.J. Yeldon hasn’t been quite as productive for the Crimson Tide but he hasn’t had to be. The 6-foot-2, 216-pound tailback from Daphne, Ala., comes into the weekend with 847 yards and 10 touchdowns. But while Gurley is Georgia’s primary back, Yeldon remains a backup for junior starter Eddie Lacy, who has rushed for 1,001 yards and 14 touchdowns. Yeldon has 6.6 yards-per-carry average to Gurley’s 6.5.

Of course, Gurley also has an understudy, but his is also a true freshman. Keith Marshall has averaged 6.7 yards a carry while rushing for 720 yards and eight TDs while alternating with Gurley.

Georgia’s duo has the full attention of the Crimson Tide.

“They run the ball extremely well,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “Todd has obviously played the most, but both of those guys are really good players. And they have a good offensive line. That creates a tremendous amount of balance with them with a good quarterback (in Aaron Murray) who is able to complete a high percentage of his passes.”

Said Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosely: “We haven’t really faced a team that has a one-two punch like that.”

Other than in Alabama practice.

Lacy and Yeldon have provided the same sort of inside-outside combination Georgia has in Gurley and Marshall. Along with third-string tailback Kenyan Drake — a freshman from Powder Springs who has run for 273 yards and two touchdowns in mop-up duty — the Crimson Tide is averaging 5.4 yards per carry as a team. Texas A&M is the only SEC team getting more per rush (5.6), while Georgia is the only other league team averaging 5 or better (5.0).

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“(Bama’s offense is) designed to put the ball in their hands and their line really fires off well,” Georgia linebacker Christian Robinson said. “You don’t see a lot of missed assignments. You see a hat on a hat. That means the running back finds the hole and is able to get to that second level a lot faster than some other teams we’ve maybe played in the past. “Both of those backs are able to hit it up and spin and turn for those extra yards that a lot of other backs that we’ve faced to this point haven’t been able to do.”

If there is anything that Georgia running backs have done better than Alabama, it is what coaches call the “home run.” The Bulldogs’ duo of Gurley and Marshall has ripped off 18 runs of 20 or more yards. Included in that total are 10 jaunts of 30 or more yards and eight of more than 40. Marshall has scoring runs of 75, 72, 62 and 52 yards while Gurley has recorded runs of 55, 51, 49 and 44 yards.

“That may be more than we’ve had in the last five years combined,” Georgia coach Mark said.

Both Gurley and Marshall came to Georgia with nationally-rated track speed. But that’s not what they credit for their long-distance success.

“It’s the line, man, and the fullbacks and the receivers out there blocking,” Gurley said. “It’s our job to finish off runs when we get into the secondary. But all those long runs you’ve seen, that’s the line and our fullbacks giving their effort.”

Alabama’s backs have been nearly as explosive. The Tide has gotten a 73-yard run from Lacy, a 43-yarder from Yeldon and several others of more than 30 yards.

“They are very similar,” Georgia senior cornerback Sanders Commings said. “Gurley is a power back but he can also break away from people just like Lacy. For us, Keith Marshall reminds me of their No. 4, Yeldon. They both, when they find a hole, no one catches them. I think they’re very similar.”

That is part of the reason both offenses have been so effective. Both teams utilize pro-style offenses that are led by highly-efficient quarterbacks. Murray leads the nation in pass efficiency with a rating of 177.15. Alabama’s A.J. McCarron is second at 176.26. The teams average 38 and 39 points per game, respectively.

“You got to be able to run the ball good enough to make your play-action pass worth it,” Richt said. “You have to be able to reduce some yardage on first or second downs. … We are doing a lot of the things you need to do.”


106 comments Add your comment


November 26th, 2012
10:31 pm

ga gator

November 26th, 2012
10:37 pm

Gurley is far superior because he did not have a dominating OL like Yeldon did.

GT Fan

November 26th, 2012
10:40 pm

Yeldon is better.

Gurley is going to get run down with that many attempts and the pressure put on him.

In the long run, Yeldon will prove to be the best.


November 26th, 2012
10:40 pm

Gurley by far. My God, a Freshman!


November 26th, 2012
10:49 pm

Gurley is the better back. Yield on has ball security issues that Gurley does not have. He also is blessed with a better O line all year. UGA’s line has played well recently but started out not as good!


November 26th, 2012
10:49 pm

Yeldon- darn auto correct!

Mark Carroll

November 26th, 2012
10:53 pm

Gurley will prove Himself better over the next few years. In 2015 we’ll be asking whatever happened to what’s his name?


November 26th, 2012
10:57 pm

Yeldon comes in as a backup when Lacy has worn them down. Gurley faces fresh players when he comes in and doesn’t have the OL Bammer has. So, Gurley!

Bernie Matt

November 26th, 2012
11:11 pm

Why not just debate who was better between Herschel and Bo Jackson. This is ridiculous! It’s pretty obvious both are really good and perhaps on their way to being considered great when they leave college for the pros in 2 years. They may go 1 and 2, in the draft in 2 years, who cares what order. Both O lines better come prepared to ball for 4 quarters. I hope UGA wins, 30 plus years is a long time to wait (of course, I’m already calling the winner of this game to destroy N. Dame). But I look forward to a hell of a game with both these kids and Lacy and Marshall ripping off some exciting runs. Should be fun, my seat in the Dome is already booked.


November 26th, 2012
11:13 pm

Alabama has the better O-Line.

Gurley is better. Stats and facts prove it…..but we can discuss this all day.

Which team will be better for 4hrs on Saturday? We’ll see.


November 26th, 2012
11:22 pm

Miami’s Duke Johnson is clearly better than both.


November 26th, 2012
11:31 pm

As usual the SECCG is the NCG in everything but name. ND would lose to Bama, UGA, UF, LSU, Aggies, Gamecocks and maybe Vandy. The game Gurley had against UF showed me! He’s the best.


November 26th, 2012
11:41 pm

they are both awesome! Dawgs, just win this game, win this game!!!!!


November 26th, 2012
11:54 pm

Pretty dumb to be asking uga fans to say the other teams rb is better. Slow night for news I guess.

John Hulk

November 27th, 2012
12:00 am

That’s a really good analysis, GT Fan, of Gurley vs Yeldon!
You Fool!


November 27th, 2012
12:26 am


The REAL Phil

November 27th, 2012
2:44 am

One thing about it GT Bob, Gurley is better than anyone your team has or will ever have as long as that coach is there. You should stay off the blogs and go wipe off the wax your team just got laid on them.

Destin Dawg

November 27th, 2012
5:59 am

I’m glad we have Gurshall the next couple years… great attitudes… work ethic… team spirit… Go Dawgs… beat Bama !!!


November 27th, 2012
6:19 am

JUST WIN BABY !!!!!!!!!!!


November 27th, 2012
6:59 am

The situations are completely different. Yeldon came into a situation where he had an elder statesman in the backfield. Yeldon was also not asked to carry the load. Yeldon has been a great freshman back. Gurley on the other hand, came into a situation that got worse after his recruitiment. Georgia, already thin at running back, had to let Crowell go. The Georgia backfield was the biggest question mark by far, along with the O-line.

Gurley handled this like a pro. And so did Marshall, just to give him credit. If Gurley had been playing for Alabama and Yeldon for Georgia, I think the outcomes would still be about the same. They are both dynamic backs with great SEC futures. Time will tell, but it will be fun to watch.

And the winner is....

November 27th, 2012
7:30 am

Gurley hands down. The numbers dont lie.


November 27th, 2012
7:53 am

I remember this same lame argument – who is better, Julio Jones or AJ Green….Doesnt matter, they both are superstars.


November 27th, 2012
8:06 am

does anybody else wanna see if we can get GTfan banned from this blog?


November 27th, 2012
8:18 am

Give Gurley a seasoned veteran line like Alabama had at the beginning of the year and he would probably have 300+ more yards on his resume.
The OL line right now, has vastly improved but still has a way to go to be considered really good. Gurley has made a fair amount of his yards after contact and if the UGA line keeps improving and adds a little more size next year, he will easily eclipse any sophomore records out there in the SEC, and possibly the NCAA. He gives UGA the balance on offense they haven’t had in the last few years. To think that he is only a freshman is pretty amazing. Marshall isn’t too bad either to slot into the plays, as he is fast and doesn’t need a whole lot of room to hit the hole. I believe they have the potential to be the best tandem of running backs in the SEC next year.

[...] reading here: Best freshman tailback? Georgia’s Todd Gurley or Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon ← Back to Home Tags: bulldogs, eddie lacy, foot, freshman, georgia bulldogs, gurley, [...]


November 27th, 2012
8:50 am

With my wife being an Alabama Grad, I’ve watched both guys all year. Yeldon is a stud, but does have some ball security kinks to work out. With that said, I feel that both guys are extremely talented and will go far as long as they stay healthy (cough, cough, Lattimore). My UGA bias gives Gurley a slight edge at this point… he has done more with a much weaker OLine. Go Dawgs!


November 27th, 2012
8:56 am

The team with the best coaches will win the game.


November 27th, 2012
9:00 am

That’s some incredible insight there… However this conversation is about two backs and which is the better talent. Again, that’s some top notch stuff there, just a little off topic.


November 27th, 2012
9:02 am

Very similar offenses…..

Which defense domintes will tell the tale…..

Chris Mike

November 27th, 2012
9:04 am

Gurley is better, but it is very close. I think Gurley style is very unique. He hits the hole with those long strides and pull away from the defender and when those dbs try to hit him he just runs them over.

[...] From, the website of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:* UGA isn’t just playing a team — it’s facing the Alabama aura* Bowl options not great for SEC Championship Game loser* Georgia-Alabama history on the gridiron* Matchup: Georgia rushing offense vs. Alabama rushing defense* Best freshman RB? Georgia’s Todd Gurley or Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon [...]

Bo Duke

November 27th, 2012
9:10 am

Gurley has been up to the test at running over the high school teams that Georgia has been playing. Go back and look at the SC game. What did he do in that game????? NOTHING!!!!!!!!!! It’s easy to put up big numbers when you play high school teams!!!!! Just like your QB again he did NOTHING in SC game!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


November 27th, 2012
9:23 am

No one runs the ball well against Bama, LSU & Texas A & M, both averaged under 5 yards per rush.

Bama will sell out to stop the run, so just punish them throwing the ball like LSU & Texas A & M did so easily.


November 27th, 2012
9:33 am

Johnny Manziel got over 5 yards per carry vs. Bama.

Murray might have a trick or two up his sleeve, he can motor and has great wheeels, if Murray runs for 75+ yards, UGA wins.

You have to get rush yards in unusual ways against Bama, like Manziel did.

LSU got 130+ yards rushing, but we don’t have to, if they jam 8 in the box to stop the run, Murray will torch them all day long.

UGA is the most balanced offense in the country, as Bama will find out. You cannot stop UGA’s offense, you have to decide to stop the run or pass.

GSU sold out to stop the UGA run, so UGA threw for 5 td’s. All points count, pass or run.

I do believe Murray is No 1 in the country in:
pass effic
yards per pass attempt

I believe they’ll see the Murray that had LSU confused for 2 quarters in last year’s SEC Championship game.

I believe UGA is the best defense Bama has faced, best dline, best linebackers, best corners, best safeties. UGA has the best receivers, best QB, best tight ends, best running backs, best oline, Bama has faced.
Bama will have to play a perfect game to beat UGA.

GT Bobblehead

November 27th, 2012
9:38 am

I could run the ball behind AL’s Oline and get 600 yards. Yeldon has put the ball on the ground in key spots against the 1 defense AL played against.


November 27th, 2012
9:39 am

Sammy, I agree with the majority of what you said… problem is Bama is much more disciplined. Dawgs have to keep the penalties down. My worry is at the coaching level… CMB has to bring the right gameplan to beat this defense. OLine has to give Aaron time to throw the ball, if they do, he will pick apart the lackluster Bama secondary. Need to at least try to establish Gurley early!


November 27th, 2012
9:40 am

If GA defense can play disciplined, this could be a good game. I’m a Dawg fan and I worry they go for the ‘kill’ shot too often and miss tackles. If you miss on Lacey or Yelton, they make you pay.


November 27th, 2012
9:47 am

Another freshman RB on the Tide is Kenyan Drake. KD is a complete stud that graduated from Hillgrove High School here in West Cobb. Look for # 17 to make a contribution when he receives more carries.


November 27th, 2012
9:49 am

On the surface, it’s a bit too easy to say Yeldon, but he runs behind an already established running back and an NFL-caliber offensive line. Gurley is better at shedding tacklers by just churning those big legs while Yeldon sheds tacklers with a slight little shimmy move. Both use the stiff arm to perfection. I would have to give a slight edge to Yeldon based off of his ability to catch passes and a better understanding of how to make defenders miss at this point in their young careers. Both have great vision but Yeldon can cutback a bit better. So here is my summary: Yeldon is a little bit better but I think (and he looks) like a somewhat finished product who is already NFL-ready. Gurley actually has a higher ceiling for growth but not by much. For those who do not understand: Yeldon virtually has no flaws save experience. Gurley can improve in a couple of areas that Yeldon is already pretty good at.


November 27th, 2012
9:53 am

Coach BoBo: PLEASE dust off the short passing game that was once a hallmark under CMR when he called the plays. Screens, crossing, and slant patterns (and a lot of Jay Rome) will be needed Saturday. Bama is not going to allow Murray 5 seconds to throw the football down field with this average offensive line. Georgia is not Texas AM, you are no Kevin Sumlin, and Murray definitely is no Manziel. Get rid of the ball quickly and keep Aaron moving around the pocket on sprints and roll outs. Heck, call a few QB draws just to keep them honest.


November 27th, 2012
9:55 am

It is funny to see all the posts about how “the numbers do not lie” in support of Girly. Yet, dog fans have said all week that UGA’s defense is superior to Alabama while having far worse numbers. UGA yields almost twice as many points per game and an additional yard per play overall. It must be great to live in a universe where people are selective in which numbers the support!

Dirty Dawg

November 27th, 2012
10:03 am

OK, not gonna make any predictions, but am gonna suggest an ultimate outcome that could be most satisfying. Georgia and Alabama both play an outstanding game and one wins in overtime in what is called ‘the best game ever’ by the pundit class. The winner goes on to kick Notre Dame’s butt…the loser goes to the Capitol One and beats whoever by a ton…Florida plays, and loses, in the Sugar Bowl…as do all the other remaining one-loss teams…THEN Georgia and Alabama wind up being ranked 1 and 2. Now I could handle that since, among other things, it would mean Florida wouldn’t actually benefit from ‘not’ playing in the SEC Championship game. And while I’m at it, Florida ends up with four or five turnovers from FSU and it’s called ‘domination’, while Georgia takes the ball away from UF six times and we were ‘lucky’ cause they ‘gave em to us’.


November 27th, 2012
10:16 am


ALABAMA has a superior O-Line.
Gurley rushed for more yards
UGA and BAMA’s opponents have the same rush defensive stats between them.

Gurly was better with a worse oline against the same ranked rush Defenses.


November 27th, 2012
10:41 am

slydog, I thought that I was the only one who remembered the short game. We have the players to do that sort of thing, always have. Now would be a good time to use them. Having Murray waste a few downs chucking the long ball over the WR’s head will not work against Bama. Getting some yardage on every down and grinding the clock might.


November 27th, 2012
10:59 am

Bernie Matt at 11:11pm
“Why not just debate who was better between Herschel and Bo Jackson.”

This kind of comment is ridiculous.

If you’re going to debate that, you better be fair and compare Bo’s first 3 seasons with Herschel’s 3 seasons. But no matter what you look at, there is no debate here. Herschel Walker is always mentioned as one of the very best college football players in history. Many times, he’s just stated as the best. Period. These things are subjective, but when the common opinion keeps on being the same thing, it has merit. Also, the only opinions that matter are the ones of people old enough to have seen both play. So if you weren’t born before AT LEAST 1975, all you’re going by is stats, lore, etc. There are quite a few complete Georgia games on youtube now from the Herschel years. That helps see his greatness.


November 27th, 2012
11:01 am

Man I duno about this one. That Yeldon guy, if he can hang onto the ball, he’s pretty good. He’s got some major pep in his step. Kinda reminds me of McFadden or A. Petterson. For now, I’d go with Gurley because he’s just as good upstairs as he is downstairs. I just don’t know what kind of teamate Yeldon is. But I do know he went through some recruiting drama and spotlight last year pitting Auburn against Alabama. While it doesn’t hurt my feelings to see Auburn get burned in the slightest, it does make me a little weary of the type of person that would go through that. Regardless, Gurley is a fine running back and an even better teamate. So Todd’s the man!


November 27th, 2012
11:22 am

They’re both very good backs. Who’s better in this SECCG will depend on their respective OL’s vs the opposing Defenses. I wonder what these two RB’s would have done if they ran behind the opposing teams OL?

There’s a lot of “if GA can(s)” in this game. The two biggest or most important challenges for the dawgs falls on Murray and Jarvis Jones and how they play. Those two guys are key to winning over Bama. They need to make some big plays that have impact on the outcome of the game. Other’s on the team will have their shining moments (I hope), however, AM and JJ need to dominate their side of the ball to beat the best team in the country. Lets hope it happens. GA DAWGS!


November 27th, 2012
11:31 am

TJ and Alabama are going to run all over UGA. Bama has the best OL and UGA gave up 207 yards rushing to UK. Get ready cause you ain’t going to be able to stop Bama and their running game!

Randall "Pink" Floyd

November 27th, 2012
11:32 am

UGA is going to get smacked in the mouth early and often by Bama’s O-Line and giant backs. We simply have to bow up. Go Dawgs.

Tech Sucks

November 27th, 2012
11:40 am

lol @ the sad Tech fans saying Gurley isn’t as good as Yeldon. Congrats on your 6-6 season Nerds.