- Kipp Adams, Reporter, RecruitingNation
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It has been a good week for the University of Georgia in recruiting. The Bulldogs started out the new year with a commitment from ESPNU 150 prospect Jordan Jenkins (Hamilton, Ga./Harris Co.), who chose Georgia over Alabama, Auburn and Florida. Last month, Georgia was able to beat out Clemson for 5-star tailback Keith Marshall (Millbrook, N.C./Millbrook), and once again, the Dawgs have struck it rich in the Tar Heel State. Friday, Georgia secured the commitment of four-star running back Todd Gurley (Tarboro, N.C./Tarboro).
"I am going to the University of Georgia," Gurley said. "Go Dawgs."
Gurley, who racked up 2,600 yards rushing and 38 touchdowns this season while leading the Vikings to their third state championship in the last four years, gives the Bulldogs much needed size in the backfield. Like Marshall, Gurley chose the Bulldogs over Clemson, the program he mentioned wanting to play for as a child.
"It was very difficult, and it kind of came down to Clemson and Georgia," Gurley said. "I grew up wanting to play for Clemson, but deep down inside, Georgia was where my heart was at."
Running back coach Bryan McClendon was a key factor in Gurley's recruitment, and the two developed a strong bond throughout the last year. Although the Tigers made a late push, in the end it was that relationship with McClendon, as well as head coach Mark Richt, that helped seal the deal for Gurley.
"My relationship with Coach McClendon was really important, as he will be the one coaching me in college. We really became close and I am excited to play for him and coach Mark Richt. You cannot ask for two better coaches to be under than those two."
Another factor that helped Georgia in their efforts to reel in two top-flight running backs from North Carolina was the friendship that Gurley developed with Marshall early on in the process. The two met at a track event and hit it off, and with similar schools recruiting them they were able to share feedback on their visits and thoughts on the different programs of interest. Interestingly enough, Gurley and Marshall took officials to Clemson and Georgia together in September and November. And now both backs will play in Athens, giving Georgia much needed depth in their backfield, and leaving Clemson looking elsewhere for running back help.
"They had the best food and I get to play with my boy Keith Marshall," Gurley said. "I wanted to play against the best in the nation in the SEC, and I really enjoyed my visit there. I clicked really well with Marshall Morgan too, so that will be a good friend for me at Georgia."
Gurley was recruited by schools close to home, and would have stayed in-state had it not been for changes in the coaching staff at North Carolina.
"The issues at North Carolina and the changing of the staff really changed things for me, because early my plan was to go there," Gurley said. "Location was not really a factor because when I visited Athens, it felt like home."
Georgia now has 17 commitments for the 2012 class; with eight prospects rated four stars and one five star in Marshall. In Thursday's updated ESPN recruiting class rankings, the Bulldogs came in at No. 5. Three commitments, Marshall, quarterback Faton Bauta (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Dwyer) and juco offensive lineman Mark Beard (Coffeyville, Kans./Coffeyville) have already enrolled and started classes this week. Georgia is projected by DawgNation to sign a full class this year.
Kipp Adams has covered University of Georgia recruiting since 2006. He can be reached at KippAdamsESPN@gmail.com or on Twitter @KippLAdams.
3hEric D. Williams