The Heisman Trophy has evolved into a quarterback-driven award in modern day college football, relegating players at other positions to the backseat in the quest for college football's top individual prize. Only two running backs have won the Heisman Trophy since 2000; and one of those winners, USC's Reggie Bush in 2005, was forced to give his back following his NCAA troubles.
If a running back is going to break out the Heisman pose in 2014, Georgia's Todd Gurley is a strong candidate.
The junior for the Bulldogs has rushed for 2,374 yards and 27 touchdowns during his two years at Georgia, despite missing three games in the middle of last season with an ankle injury and playing hurt for the final six games of the year.
He's healthy again, and his head coach thinks he's ready to make a run at the Heisman.
"If he's in great condition and he stays healthy, I think he can't help but to have a tremendous amount of production and be a very strong candidate for the Heisman Trophy," head coach Mark Richt said.
Gurley can make a strong case for being the top running back in the SEC and the country. According to VegasInsider.com, he's fourth on odds boards to win the Heisman at 9-1, and is tops on the board among running backs.
During his first two seasons, he had record-setting quarterback Aaron Murray handing off to him. This year, more of the offense will fall on him as first-year starter Hutson Mason, a redshirt senior, takes his one and only shot at SEC glory.
If Mason keep defenses honest—and with a talented receiving corps, that's a reasonable assumption—that will open up those holes for Gurley, who will take advantage for a big year.
The 6'1", 232-pounder has the size to run through defenders, is light on his feet, can make defenders miss and when he gets in space, he's taking it to the house.
Is he the best running back Richt has had at Georgia?
Musa Smith, Thomas Brown, Knowshon Moreno, Washaun Ealey and Isaiah Crowell are just a few of the talented running backs who have toted the rock between the hedges under Richt.
"You know, there's been some good ones," Richt said. "I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings, but this guy [Gurley], I'll just say, he is a very special talent."
A special talent, indeed. According to his bio on Georgia's website, Gurley was an accomplished track star in high school and competed in Europe as a member of Team USA in the spring and summer of 2011.
Despite being a special talent, Georgia won't be running a Heisman campaign for Gurley in 2014, according to Seth Emerson of the Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer. That's par for the course for Georgia, which chose to let the numbers do the talking last summer with then-senior quarterback Aaron Murray, according to Emerson.
If he stays healthy, Gurley's numbers will likely speak loudly in 2014.
He'll be fighting an uphill battle with star quarterbacks, but if they speak loudly enough, they could earn him a trip to New York City in early December as a Heisman finalist.
* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted, and all stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com. The full Q&A with Georgia head coach Mark Richt will be published next week.
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