This conversation was had last season when Todd Gurley was on his way to a breakout freshman season for the Bulldogs.
But now that he’s a sophomore and has already made an impact on the games he has played in this season, the comparison between him and Herschel Walker needs to be discussed once again.
This is not to take anything away from Keith Marshall—he’s a very good running back in his own right. But it’s clear that Gurley is the No. 1 back and the Bulldogs will go only as far as he will take them.
But let’s first look at Walker and Gurley's similarities in size.
When Walker was a freshman in Athens he was 6’1’’ and 218 pounds. When Gurley played last year, he was also 6’1’’and 218 pounds.
Gurley now weighs 232 pounds, while Walker was around 225 pounds his sophomore year.
So both players are similar in size and stature. But what makes this comparison more interesting is their high school backgrounds.
Walker played high school football at Johnson County High School which is located in Wrightsville, Georgia. In his senior year, Walker rushed for 3,167 yards and helped his team win the state title.
He was even awarded the Dial Award for the being the best high school scholar-athlete in the nation in 1979.
Gurley went to Tarboro High School in Tarboro, North Carolina. Gurley did not rush for over 3,000 yards like Walker, but he did help his team win the state title and was named the North Carolina Associated Press Player of the year after tallying 2,600 yards and 38 touchdowns during the 2011 season.
But the real reason many compare Gurley to Walker is what Gurley did last season.
With a rushing total of 1,385 yards on 222 carries and 17 touchdowns, Gurley became the second true freshman in Georgia history to rush for over 1,000 yards in a single season.
The first was, of course, Walker, who rushed for 1,616 yards on 274 carries and 15 touchdowns.
Walker also helped his team to an undefeated season in 1980 which also led to a national title. Gurley helped the Bulldogs get the SEC title game, and they were one play away from not only winning the conference for the first time since 2005, but also getting to play for a BCS Championship.
What will be interesting is to see what Gurley does the rest of this season. So far, Gurley has rushed for 286 yards on 42 carries and three touchdowns. If he can keep up that pace the entire season, he could rush for 1,800 yards and 20 touchdowns when the season is all said and done.
Those numbers would match Walker’s numbers his sophomore season, as he rushed for 1,891 yards with 18 touchdowns. But he also carried the ball 385 times which is something that Gurley won’t see with Marshall receiving 12 carries a game.
Another thing that comes to mind when comparing the two is the Heisman Trophy.
Walker won the award in 1982, which was his junior year. But he placed second his sophomore season and third his freshman year. Gurley did not place in the top-5 of Heisman voting, but he was a Freshman All-American, and if the Bulldogs win the SEC East for the third consecutive year, he will most likely be a finalist in December.
Gurley and Walker are very different, but very similar at the same time. Like Walker, Gurley has size, speed, balance and quickness, which is why defenders have a tough time bringing him down. Gurley is also a key piece to the offense and he will be the reason for it, if the Bulldogs win a national title.
The difference is Walker became not only the best player in UGA history, but also on of the best college football players of all-time.
Gurley still has a lot of games left in him to be considered one of the all-time greats, let alone the best to play in Athens but if he continues to improve, fans will have no problems naming Gurley as one of the all-time greats.