Georgia running back Todd Gurley has missed four games while serving an NCAA-mandated suspension for accepting money for his autograph, but that hasn’t diminished the esteem in which coach Mark Richt holds his star running back.
“First offensive play, you’ll see Gurley; I can promise you that,” Richt said on his radio call-in show Monday night. “Todd Gurley is the starting tailback.”
Gurley was listed at the top of the Bulldogs depth chart for Saturday’s game against Auburn, ahead of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, allowing the former Heisman frontrunner to pick up right where he left off before he was suspended on Oct. 9.
Prior to his suspension, Gurley had 773 yards and eight touchdowns. He was leading the SEC with 154.6 yards per game.
Georgia was so excited about his return to the lineup that the Bulldogs even released a hype video.
But how will Gurley fit in with the new-look Bulldogs?
Prior to his suspension, Gurley was the bulk of the offense. The passing game struggled and freshmen Chubb and Michel were still getting their feet wet (before Michel was injured).
In Gurley’s absence, the Bulldogs have rallied. Chubb has rushed for 671 yards, including four consecutive games of 143 or more yards, and five touchdowns. Similarly, the passing game has seemingly come alive with 573 yards and six touchdowns in the past two games. The passing game had 851 yards in the games where Gurley was available.
“We did that without Todd,” Chubb said of the Bulldogs' effort in a 63-31 win against Kentucky last week in which they amassed 305 yards rushing and 559 total yards. “So I’d think there’s a lot more we can do.”
If Georgia can wrap Gurley into this new offense that is seemingly more confident and well rounded, the Bulldogs could still win the SEC East and provide a formidable challenge in the SEC title game. However, if the team goes back to its earlier ways and becomes dependent on Gurley, it won’t be nearly as strong as it’s become in the past four weeks while rallying around Gurley’s absence (Florida game excluded, of course).
This week’s game will be a huge test for the Georgia offense considering Auburn has been able to seemingly score at will against most of its opponents this season. Also, the Tigers are going to be eager to get back into the win column after losing to Texas A&M last week and falling out of the College Football Playoff Top 4.
Georgia has the offense to keep up with the Tigers, but keeping the diversity that has made them successful in the past four weeks will be key not only this weekend, but moving forward.
For more Georgia news, visit UGASports.com.
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