|Stephen Morton/Associated Press|
|Georgia running back Todd Gurley will enter the 2014 season as a contender for the Heisman Trophy.|
Georgia coach Mark Richt seems to think Bulldogs junior running back Todd Gurley will go pro after this season.
Richt was asked by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution if it would be difficult to recruit a running back in this cycle.
"No, I don't think (it will be a problem)," Richt told the newspaper. "What are the chances of Gurley staying around a long time? You know, (junior) Keith Marshall for that matter? You know, if you only have three running backs on campus, and you take two out of there? ... That's not enough. The kids know that."
Gurley (6-foot-1, 232 pounds) heads into the season as one of the nation's top three backs; he is the best "dual-threat" tailback (runner/receiver) in the nation and is coming off a season in which he rushed for 989 yards and 10 touchdowns despite missing three whole games and parts of two others with ankle and hip injuries. He also had 37 receptions for 441 yards and six TDs in 2013.
Gurley is a physical between-the-tackles runner who also has good speed. He has 13 100-yard games and has rushed for 27 TDs in his career, and is one of just two players in Georgia history (Herschel Walker is the other) to rush for 1,000 yards as a true freshman.
Like Gurley, Marshall (5-11, 219) is a North Carolina native; he played in just five games last season before suffering a torn ACL. He is expected to be close to 100 percent healthy when this season begins. Marshall, a former state high school 100-meters champ, has rushed for 1,005 yards and nine TDs in his career.
Richt's comments obviously are meant to help in recruiting: It's tough to sign high-caliber players if touted "veterans" at their positions are still expected to be around, and Richt is planting the idea that his top two backs could leave. Then again, he and his staff were able to do bring in two five-star tailbacks this past cycle (Nick Chubb and Sony Michel). But the AJC points out that of the eight running backs Georgia has offered in the 2015 recruiting cycle, six already have committed elsewhere.
That Gurley seriously would consider turning pro after this season should surprise no one. NFL Media draft analyst Bucky Brooks has compared him to "a young Marshawn Lynch" and said he had a chance to step in and make an immediate impact at the next level.
Marshall bears watching. He is going to play second-fiddle to Gurley this fall, and how productive he is in that role obviously will determine whether he returns for a senior season. If Gurley does go pro early, Marshall could decide to stay to become Georgia's lead dog in the backfield in 2015. But as Richt told the AJC, "backs don't have a long life," so both Gurley and Marshall could move on after this season -- which, in turn, would mean Georgia needs to bring in a running back (or two) in this recruiting cycle.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.