Todd Gurley Is Nation's Best Tailback, and It's Not Even Close

Mike FosterCorrespondent IMay 29, 2013

Todd Gurley managed to make the Alabama defense look human.
Todd Gurley managed to make the Alabama defense look human.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Georgia's rising sophomore tailback Todd Gurley is good enough to win a Heisman Trophy, as well as be a top-15 draft pick. That may not say enough about him. 

The casual football fan will tell you the next big-name running back in the sport is Alabama's T.J. Yeldon, who follows a line of greats in Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy. 

Yeldon, who spelled Lacy to the tune of 175 carries last season, gained 1,108 yards (6.3 YPC) and scored 12 touchdowns. 

Gurley topped Yeldon's numbers, managing to pump out 1,385 yards on 222 carries (6.2 YPC) and 17 scores. 

Nobody forgot about Gurley last year. He earned All-SEC Freshman honors and is still considered one of the top backs in the entire nation. 

What may have yet to be realized, however, is that Gurley appears to be a lot more than just that next top tailback in the country's crop. The more you watch his tape, the more you see a guy who is arguably better than any of the other great tailbacks to run through the SEC in this millennium.

Put him up there with Darren McFadden, Knowshon Moreno, Ingram and Richardson. Heck, if you really want to pull some strings, there are a lot of similarities between Gurley and the great Adrian Peterson.

The expected retort: He played one season. Let the book write itself first. 

Okay, fair. But, Gurley didn't play the 2012 season like a freshman. In fact, he showed up in Athens already the 6'1", 232-pound man-child who dragged the vaunted Alabama defense in the SEC title game. 

Try finding a flaw in his game. You can't. 

Then, begin looking at his plus side; you can't get your brow to settle back down on your face when you're done.

A former track star, Gurley also has tree-trunk thighs. He has a pretty quick burst for a man of his size but usually starts runs with a veteran display of patience. 

He uses quick cuts and torso twists to navigate and weave through holes and finishes runs by thrusting his powerful body forward. 

The most outstanding part of his game is his balance and incredible ability to never go down on first contact. 

What has made the marketing of this athletic freak a tad lacking is the bigger picture: He shares the backfield with Keith Marshall, who was the higher-valued recruit of the two. 

Marshall carried 117 times last year for 759 yards and eight scores, including many long-distance, highlight-reel scampers. He's the De'Anthony Thomas of the Southeast, if you will. 

That dynamic backfield, which is undoubtedly the best in college football, is also a sub-category of a bigger picture, which is Georgia's high-powered offense, led by returning senior Aaron Murray.

The point is, this high-scoring, potent Georgia offense is made up to be just that, which has made the image of the tailback position more of a complementary working piece, rather than the driving force. 

Todd Gurley isn't at Alabama, nor is he in an offense where his offensive ability will make or break the game. He's rarely the entire focus of the media presentation. 

Let us not forget, on that same token, that Gurley showed up most in the two biggest games last year. 

He went for 118 yards against Florida, single-handedly controlling the clock, and followed up with 122 yards (5.3 YPC) and two scores against Alabama. 

Think how much more of a household name this star would be had he laced up his cleats in front of the national stage once more.

Gurley may not be in a system where he wins a Heisman. He also may not be a top-15 pick in the NFL because of the lowering demand for tailbacks in drafts. 

But, all you have to do is watch his tape for a few moments before realizing he's not just another very good tailback. 

This guy could go down as the best ever at Georgia not named Herschel Walker, and it's not too far-fetched to say he could surpass that.