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Monday, February 11, 2013
The SEC's best 25 players: No. 11

By Edward Aschoff

A fresh-faced frosh makes our list, after he was one of the league's most productive running backs in 2012:

No. 11: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia, Fr.

2012 summary: The consensus All-SEC performer led all SEC running backs with 1,385 rushing yards and tied for second in the league with 17 rushing touchdowns. He averaged 6.2 yards per carry and rushed for nearly 100 yards per game. He also caught 16 passes for 117 yards and returned seven kickoffs for 243 yards and a touchdown.

Most recent ranking: Not ranked in the 2012 preseason countdown.

Making the case for Gurley: It's tough for true freshmen to come in and make the kind of immediate impact Gurley did. After not even being the most popular freshman back on campus during fall practice, Gurley burst right onto the college football season in Week 1. He carried the ball just eight times, but rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns in the Bulldogs' 45-23 win against Buffalo. He also made waves when he returned a kickoff 100 yards for another score. From there, it was Gurley's world in Georgia's backfield, as he quickly became the Dawgs' go-to back. He would go on to rush for 100-plus yards in eight more games and scored multiple touchdowns in five games. Gurley was one of the toughest runners around. He could grind out the extra yards up the middle of the field and beat teams with a home run play. He was also deceptively quick and elusive at times, making him even tougher to defend when he found space. At one point during the early in the season, he was averaging more than 9 yards per carry and finished the year second to only Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel in rushing yards in the SEC. Against Alabama and Florida, which both ended the year in the top four nationally in rushing defense, Gurley rushed for 122 and 118 yards, respectively. He also scored a combined three touchdowns in those games. One thing that made Gurley that much more special for the Bulldogs was the fact he was so durable and consistent. He was able to pound away for a little more than 15 carries per game without suffering nagging injuries that hindered his play and rushed for less than 50 yards just twice all year. Gurley might have been a freshman by class, but he rarely looked like a young pup while on the field last fall.

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