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The SEC's 25 best players: No. 14

1/27/2014

Georgia's Todd Gurley looked like he might make a case to be nation's top running back early in the season before a sprained ankle suffered against LSU derailed him for several weeks. Gurley returned and nearly rushed for 1,000 yards despite never playing at 100 percent after the injury -- showing off skills that could make him an All-American if he stays healthy in 2014.

No. 14: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

2013 summary: Gurley strained a quad in the opener against Clemson and still rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns. He ran 30 times for 132 yards and another score the following week against South Carolina. And he was well on the way to a huge game against LSU when he sprained his ankle in the second quarter of a 73-yard game. We didn't see him again for a month, when he returned with a 187-yard, two-touchdown performance against Florida. Gurley was clearly not himself, but still had more than 100 yards of total offense in five of the six games after returning to the lineup. He finished as the team's leading rusher (989 yards, 10 TDs) and was fourth on the team in receiving (441 yards, 6 TDs).

Most recent ranking: Ranked No. 3 in the 2013 preseason countdown

Making the case for Gurley: Want to know how valuable Gurley was to Georgia's offense? Look at what the Bulldogs did while he was out of the lineup. A near loss at Tennessee, followed by back-to-back losses against Missouri and Vanderbilt, with Georgia posting a paltry 221 yards of total offense in a dismal showing at Vandy. The scary thing for SEC defenses is that the sophomore added receiving skills to his repertoire down the stretch, posting outings of 97, 90, 87 and 77 receiving yards in the six games after his return from injury. If Keith Marshall (season-ending knee injury against Tennessee) and Gurley return to full health in the fall, Georgia should have one of the nation's scariest backfields.

The rundown:

No. 15: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina, Jr.

No. 16: Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU, Jr.

No. 17: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri, Jr.

No. 18: T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama, So.

No. 19: Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU, Jr.

No. 20: Cody Prewitt, S, Ole Miss, Jr.

No. 21: Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn, Jr.

No. 22: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama, Jr.

No. 23: Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State, Sr.

No. 24: Kenny Ladler, S, Vanderbilt, Sr.

No. 25: E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri, Jr.