It may be a coincidence that Todd Gurley wears No. 3 and Keith Marshall No. 4. As the two freshmen running backs stand next to each other, it makes for a large number 34.
There was a running back with the number 34 in the '80s that may have been the best Georgia football player to ever play the game. Herschel Walker, as a true freshman, was the main reason Georgia won over Notre Dame to win the 1980 national championship. Georgia had three main ingredients that year: a great defense, a decent passing game and an outstanding running back.
This year, UGA has a great defense, a great passing game and a potentially dangerous set of running backs. Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall haven't played a single down yet in a college football game but will soon get their chance to prove what UGA fans are expecting.
As the running back competition heats up between the two freshmen, opposing teams will be punished, and UGA fans will reap the benefits. Both of these running backs hail from the state of North Carolina and will most likely be remembered for years to come as the dynamic duo from NC.
No. 3 Todd Gurley
Gurley rated as the 22nd best athlete according to ESPN and the fifth best running back and 42nd best overall player according to Rivals. Clearly, recruiting services weren't on the same page or convinced Gurley was a great, pure, running back.
However, UGA's running backs coach Bryan McClendon wasn't concerned about ratings and knew Gurley was something special. He told ESPN:
I don't even look at all the ratings and that stuff. I train myself not to, so I don't even know what he was rated. But I know when you looked at his film and you went and watched him play, it was like, "Man, this is one of the best dudes out there this year." So that's how we approached it.
It almost seems as if UGA knew what they were getting but didn't want to advertise until he signed his Letter Of Intent to be a Dawg. He has certainly impressed Aaron Murray so far, with Murray saying (via ESPN Insider; subscription required):
He’s a great running back, very big kid. He’s just a great-looking running back and I think the one strength he has is great balance. I just see him just getting hit and bouncing off guys and bouncing off guys and spinning around and he really just doesn’t go down. It takes a lot to knock him down.
Todd Gurley seems to be as good as and even better than advertised.
No. 4 Keith Marshall
Marshall rated as the second best running back according to ESPN and the second best all-purpose running back and 48th best overall player according to Rivals. Everyone knew what UGA was getting in Keith Marshall.
For a running back that reportedly has been timed at 4.25 in the 40-yard dash, he clearly has elite speed. Marshall is just as good off the field as he is on the field. According to the Times Free Press, Marshall graduated high school with a 4.31 GPA . It doesn't take a genius to run the ball, but it sure helps to be intelligent to pick up the UGA playbook quickly.
Marshall was an early enrollee, and that, along with his willing to study the game, will transfer to on-field success this year. Keith Marshall could have gone to any college he wanted to and he did...he picked the Dawgs.
Synergy, defined as "the interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects," is what Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall bring to UGA's backfield.
When one is having an off-day, the other one will be there to step it up. When the other may be a little banged up or tired, the other one will carry the load. When both are running on all cylinders, opposing teams' defenses are going to have a bad day.
Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall have been friends for a while, and Marshall told ajc.com, “We wanted to go to the same school...We thought we can really make each other better. Rarely does one guy carry the load, so that’s not something we’re worried about.”
The two backs were both high school track stars and grew up only an hour apart. According to the Tar Heel Times, Marshall and Gurley won national track and field competitions. Marshall won the 100 meters in 10.64 seconds, and Gurley won the 110-meter hurdles in 13.88 at the 2011 World Youth trials at Myrtle Beach, SC.
Their fierce, but friendly competition will propel the Dawg's running game this year into something fans have not seen for years. Both running backs are committed on and off the field to greatness and are focused. One, or both of them have a potential to gain over 1,000 yards this year and that will translate into wins for the Bulldog Nation.
The scary part is that they're only freshmen. The best part for UGA is that they're competitive, and they will be Dawgs for at least three years.