If a RB Is Going to Win the Heisman, Georgia's Todd Gurley Is Set Up Well

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterJanuary 22, 2014

Getty Images

The Heisman Trophy has increasingly become an award for the best quarterback on one of college football's best teams, which has relegated running backs to the Heisman back-burner. 

Four running backs won the award during the 1990s, but since then, it's been relatively quiet on the running back front. Only two running backs have won the Heisman since the turn of the century: USC's Reggie Bush in 2005 (which was later vacated) and Alabama's Mark Ingram in 2009.

Could a third join that group in 2014?

Heisman Trophy Winners at RB Since 1990
Rashaan SalaamColorado1994
Eddie GeorgeOhio State1995
Ricky WilliamsTexas1998
Ron DayneWisconsin1999
Reggie Bush*USC2005
Mark IngramAlabama2009
* - Vacated

Georgia's Todd Gurley will certainly have a great chance.

The 6'1", 232-pound rising junior from Tarboro, N.C. has been nothing short of spectacular during his first two seasons at Georgia. He rushed for 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns as a true freshman in 2012 and followed it up with 989 yards and 10 touchdowns in his sophomore campaign in 2013 that was hampered by a lingering ankle injury suffered in September versus LSU.

Georgia RB Todd Gurley
Georgia RB Todd GurleyDaniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

The best is yet to come, and it could lead him to New York City and the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

Somebody not named "Aaron Murray" will be the full-time starting quarterback in Athens for the first time since 2009. Rising redshirt senior Hutson Mason took the snaps on the flats against Georgia Tech in last season's regular-season finale and then threw for 320 yards in a loss to Nebraska in the Gator Bowl.

Mason has the talent to be a star, but expect him to rely heavily on Gurley early in the season. If Gurley can handle the load—and there's nothing to suggest that he can't—he may allow his offensive coordinator to be one-dimensional by choice.

That'd be a good thing for Gurley and Georgia.

Auburn proved this season that a dominant running game is still the foundation of success to a point where the Tigers simply didn't bother stretching the field versus Arkansas and Tennessee except when they were in extremely desirable situations.

It will look a little different due to the different schemes, but Georgia can do the same.

Georgia RB Todd Gurley
Georgia RB Todd GurleyStephen B. Morton/Associated Press

Gurley was listed as a front-runner by College Football Talk's resident Heisman expert Chris Huston, and he'll get big stages early to solidify his position.

The Bulldogs open with Clemson at home in what's one of the biggest games of Week 1. Gurley rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns against the Tigers last season, and a repeat performance will almost certainly vault him into front-runner status in the Heisman race. 

The trick would then be to maintain.

South Carolina in Week 3—which will replace three key members of its defensive line—will be his next big opportunity to shine on the biggest stage. Last season, all he did was rush for 132 yards and a touchdown against what was one of the best defensive lines in Gamecocks history.

If he shines early and erases durability doubts, he'll be an even bigger focal point in that offense than he was when Murray was there.

But for Gurley—or any running back—to buck the trend and hoist the Heisman, he'll need some luck. Quarterback is the glamour position, and the most glamorous player in that position is reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. 

As was the case with Johnny Manziel last season, previous winners are held to a higher standard. That's unfair, but it is something of which Gurley or any hopeful can take advantage.

In today's Heisman landscape, the stars have to align for a non-quarterback to win the award. They could align for Gurley in 2014.



    Tua's Dad: Finger Injury Required Surgery

    College Football logo
    College Football

    Tua's Dad: Finger Injury Required Surgery

    Web Staff
    via KHON

    Could Georgia Make School History in the NFL Draft?

    Georgia Bulldogs Football logo
    Georgia Bulldogs Football

    Could Georgia Make School History in the NFL Draft?

    GridironNow.com Staff
    via Gridiron Now

    D’Andre Walker Readies for Bigger Role at UGA

    Georgia Bulldogs Football logo
    Georgia Bulldogs Football

    D’Andre Walker Readies for Bigger Role at UGA

    via DawgNation

    Notes from the Start of Spring Practice

    Georgia Bulldogs Football logo
    Georgia Bulldogs Football

    Notes from the Start of Spring Practice

    Dawn of the Dawg
    via Dawn of the Dawg