Since I am not your average college football addict, when I heard the name Todd Gurley this spring, I wasn’t completely aware right off the bat who the Rams got with the 10th pick in the 2015 draft. And since I am a George Carlin fan, I immediately thought, “Well, Todd sure is a weak name for a boy.” However, if you heard my neighbors down here in Little Rock, Arkansas, you got all the analysis a man could need. In other words, sounds effects.
“Whoooa!” “Oh mannnn!” “That guyyyyyy!” Gurley, who collected touchdowns at the University of Georgia like you collect diet cokes on a long day at work, put the Arkansas Razorbacks through the trenches during his time in college. So when my neighbor told me months ago, “your Rams got a great running back,” I couldn’t help but smile. His shoe prints were still being felt down south.
The 21 year old Gurley came into Rams camp fresh off knee surgery in the offseason, which has slowed his development this summer and will keep him out of preseason games(a good thing when you think about it). Gurley has started to practice with the team and looks as imposing as his draft card read back in April. The 6 foot 1 231 pound back drew comparisons to Marshall Faulk at the draft, and NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock liked the comparison a lot. His description of Gurley for NFL.com puts it bluntly why the Rams took this kid.
“I like the Marshawn Lynch comparison. St. Louis wants to win games the same way that Seattle and San Francisco do in the same division, that is by running the football and playing great defense and special teams. Gurley has Olympic-type speed. I love this pick for St. Louis, which already has a great defense and Gurley will help out Nick Foles.”-Mayock
Gurley doesn’t come with the wrapper untouched. He was suspended for four games for accepting 3,000 dollars to autograph memorabilia and his knee had other teams wondering if he could get that burst of speed back post ACL surgery. However, it has been nine months since Gurley’s surgery, and his limited participation in practice drills continues a normal rehab. An injury at an early age does project a healthy return.
There’s a lot to be excited for. Gurley was the second freshman in Georgia history to run for 1,000 yards and set a new record with 17 touchdowns. In a head to head clash with Clemson, Gurley ran for 154 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2013. Watching the man work in videos, Gurley has a unique blend of speed and power. This bulldog has some bite. He can barrel through you or spin away. In 2014, he collected 62 percent of his yards after contact so his motor doesn’t stop when he is hit, it’s just getting warmed up. Instead of getting wrapped up by linebackers, Gurley will shred them like a house of cards and can cut back to the outside. He’s a multi-dimensional back who will fit right into head coach Jeff Fisher’s offense.
With Nick Foles driving the offense downfield yet needing that safety valve in a reliable back, Gurley should get plenty of action when the knee is stable and ready to roam. Together with Tre Mason and Benny Cunningham, Fisher is building a Game of Thrones type kingdom with his running backs and that is how the Rams will run for years. Gurley is a Fisher prototype.
The silver lining in Gurley’s suspension and injury is that he has plenty of football life in him. Unlike a guy like Jake Locker, Gurley didn’t lose a lot of his impact talent and tenacity in ugly college football battles. He’s still a brand new toy with some of the plastic attached. Unlike quarterbacks, running backs like Gurley don’t need to digest an entire system or adapt from shotgun to under the huddle. The transformation is apparent but not overwhelming. Gurley, when healthy, should be a force in this offense and an impact talent.
When it comes to young players in the draft, look at the tape and forget the combine. I don’t care how he did when the stadium was quiet and he was jumping, sprinting and moving without anyone around him. I want to know how he did in a packed house in Georgia with the pressure of the SEC barring down on him. That’s where the true analysis is dug up. From what I’ve seen, Gurley looks like a weapon of mass destruction. A healthy knee and discipline is all the kid needs. Todd is no “girley” man on the football field.
Under the tutelage of Fisher and company, Todd Gurley should run a long way for the St. Louis Rams.