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The other day a Bulldogs fan asked me to look into my crystal ball a bit and predict whether potential Heisman Trophy candidate Todd Gurley will go down in the annals of UGA football as one of the program’s greatest backs.
My answer was that, if he is 100 percent healthy this season and remains that way, he certainly would at least merit being in the conversation.
Gurley definitely is one of the most talented running backs I’ve ever seen playing in Athens. The only problem is we’ve never seen him fully healthy for an entire season. However, even at less than full-speed he’s an awesome back; that last drive against Tech last year was one of the most imposing performances I’ve seen by a Georgia tailback.
If he has the kind of season he’s capable of having in 2014, Gurley likely would be a strong contender in the Heisman voting. And as far as all-time UGA backs go, he’d certainly be jostling with Garrison Hearst for place of honor just behind Hershel Walker.
As Mark Richt told UGA fans in Savannah last week, “When Todd’s healthy and Todd’s in shape he’s as good as anybody I’ve ever been around, up close. I saw film of Herschel Walker, I’ve seen film of other people. But to just say I’ve coached him or had a close-up look at the guy, he could be as good as any of them. Hopefully, he’ll be healthy and if he’s healthy he’ll be in good condition. He loves to play in the big games. He’s a good player.”
It’s just a shame that, unless he’s hurt and misses some games, this is probably the last year the Dogs will have Gurley. Just think what kind of numbers he could put up in a four-season UGA career!
Talking about where Gurley might rank among all those great backs who’ve played for the Red and Black got me to thinking about a piece I wrote five years ago about picking an all-time dream Bulldogs backfield.
Back in May 2009, I wrote this:
If you could pick and choose from throughout the ages, who’d be in your all-time Bulldogs dream backfield? Would you try to get Trippi or Sinkwich in there with Herschel? Who’d play fullback? Quarterback?
Particularly at running back, there’s an embarrassment of riches from which to choose. Besides the obvious No. 34, fellow Heisman winner Frank Sinkwich and his 1942 backfield mate Charley Trippi, there’s Willie McClendon, Musa Smith, Hearst, Kevin McLee, Jimmy Poulos, Rodney Hampton, Lars Tate, Terrell Davis, Glynn Harrison, Robert Edwards, Tim Worley and the recently departed Knowshon Moreno, just to rattle off a few.
Stellar fullbacks available include Bill Hartman (longtime assistant coach and Bulldog Club scholarship fund namesake), Theron Sapp (the famed “Drought Breaker” and the fourth player to have his jersey number retired, along with Herschel, Sinkwich and Trippi), Ronnie “Bull” Jenkins, Brad Johnson, Keith Henderson, Mack Strong, Verron Haynes and recent Dog Brannan Southerland.
Then there are the wingbacks, flankers and others playing a position that is now more receiver but originally was one of the halfbacks, including the great Jimmy Orr, Horace King, Gene Washington, Andre Hastings, Brice Hunter, Hines Ward (who was technically a split end after playing tailback and quarterback but often lined up in the slot and still sometimes ran the ball), Terrence Edwards (who went back and forth from split end to flanker), Mohamed Massaquoi (likewise) and star flanker A.J. Green.
Quarterbacks? Again, lots to choose from, depending on whether you want primarily a running attack (a natural inclination with those tailbacks), a passing attack, or something more balanced like Richt employs. Among your many choices: Johnny Rauch, Zeke Bratkowski, Fran Tarkenton, Larry Rakestraw, Andy Johnson, Matt Robinson, Ray Goff, Buck Belue, Eric Zeier, Mike Bobo, David Greene, D.J. Shockley and Matthew Stafford.
So, who to choose?
My brother Jonathan, a true believer in the running game, said he would “run the wishbone with Herschel, Knowshon and Verron Haynes.”
My other brother, Tim, who thinks outside the box, would go back to the future by running the old wing-T offense (precursor to today’s “wildcat”) with Sinkwich taking the snaps at tailback (technically the quarterback was mostly used for blocking in that offense), Herschel at the other running back position and Trippi or Moreno at wingback. This actually would be a pretty balanced offense since “Flatfoot Frankie” threw for 2,331 yards and rushed for 2,271 yards during his three-year career, scoring 60 touchdowns — 30 rushing and 30 passing. Tim says if he needed a blocking fullback, he’d use the junior-year Southerland, and if Sinkwich were in a passing mode, “I’d have him throw to Hines and A.J.”
Tim’s buddy Van would run a more traditional Dooley-style offense with Herschel at tailback, “Pulpwood” Smith at fullback and Poulos as the other running back. His QB would be Johnson, backed by Greene.
My high school classmate Johnny, who actually favors defensive players, limited his choices to those he saw play but couldn’t limit himself to just four backs in his backfield. Among his choices: tailbacks Harrison (“when he was given the ball, Gliding Glynn did more with it than most other running backs at UGA”) and Hearst (“work horse with results”); fullbacks Ronnie Stewart from the 1981 team (“who do you think opened up those holes?”), Henderson, Haynes and Southerland; and among his quarterbacks was his “personal favorite,” Andy Johnson (one of our Athens High School classmates). Moreno, Johnny said, “left the Dawgs too early to make the dream team.”
OK, now to my own dream backfield.
I’d alternate between the I-formation and more or less a pro set and, of course, Herschel would be a given at tailback. To spell him, I’d have Hearst, who ranks right behind Herschel in most of the Dogs’ rushing records. Just for fun, occasionally I’d load the backfield with both of them.
My change-of-pace back would be the 5-10, 185-pound Sinkwich (especially good for halfback passes) or the 6-0, 186-pound Trippi. With the size of defensive players these days, I’d want to try to get them the ball in open space.
My fullback would be Strong, with Haynes spelling him and giving me another running threat. And I’d have Hines and Orr rotating as my flankers. I’d cheat a bit by adopting the old Dooley two-quarterback system, with Andy directing my running attack and either Tarkenton or Greene chunking the seed.
(2014 update: I might insert A.J. ahead of Orr in my flanker rotation, and Aaron Murray probably now would merit a spot in my QB rotation, too.)
I think we’d score a lot of points.
Your turn. …
ANOTHER FAVORITE DAWG
Congratulations to UGA and U.S. Olympics swimming star Shannon Vreeland, chosen as the 2013-14 Southeastern Conference H. Boyd McWhorter Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Vreeland will receive a $15,000 postgraduate scholarship from AT&T and the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
Vreeland, from Overland Park, Kan., is a double-major in Economics and International Affairs and is on target to graduate in December. She currently holds a 3.83 grade point average. She’s also a member of the UGA Honors Program.
And, in the pool, she placed second in the 200 freestyle, fifth in the 100 freestyle and sixth in the 500 freestyle at the NCAAs as the Lady Bulldogs won their second straight national championship. She came in second on the 800 freestyle relay, third on the 400 medley relay and fourth on the 400 freestyle relay at the NCAAs.
Vreeland, a team captain, won the 200 freestyle and placed second in the 100 and 500 freestyle at the SEC Championships as the Lady Bulldogs won their fifth straight title. She finished first on the 400 and 800 freestyle relays and second on the 400 medley relay at the SEC meet.
Oh, and she also won a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics and three gold medals at the 2013 World Championships.
“I am honored and humbled to receive this recognition,” Vreeland said in a UGA news release. “I have coaches, teammates, support staff, professors, classmates and friends who have helped me grow so much during my time in Athens. You are cared for here on so many levels. I’m grateful for what we’ve done in the pool and equally grateful for the educational opportunity I’ve had. I’m pleased to accept this award on behalf of the University of Georgia and everyone associated with Georgia swimming and diving.”
Shannon is what college athletics is all about!
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg