RB Gurley looking faster, leaner in UGA’s spring practice

It’s a momentous March for Georgia tailback Todd Gurley.

Not for the ho-hum 15 yards rushing on two carries he had in Georgia’s first preseason scrimmage this week.

His Duke Blue Devils are just two wins away from reaching the Final Four at the Georgia Dome.

Gurley recited off the top of his head the tip-time for the Blue Devils’ NCAA tournament opener last week and scoffed at the notion that they might not make it to Atlanta.

“Come on now,” said Gurley, who came to Georgia from Tarboro, N.C. “Next question.”

Gurley was a big reason that the Georgia football team made it to the Dome last season, rushing for 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns. He had the sixth most yards in program history and second most every for a true freshman.

Gurley dealt with nagging injuries — to a knee, shoulder and leg — during a season when he averaged 15.9 carries per game, sharing the load with fellow freshmen Keith Marshall.

“I think at the end of last year, he was definitely beat down some,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said.

“You could tell he was a little hobbled even in the bowl game in running. He had a lot of aches, a lot of minor injuries. The time off was good for him.”

Gurley said it was just football.

“You heal up in one thing and your knee and then your ankle hurts,” Gurley said. “It’s always something with football. It got pretty bad, but I just fought through it.”

Georgia coach Mark Richt said Gurley looks trimmer this spring with more endurance and quickness than at the end of last season.

Actually, the 6-foot-1 Gurley said he weighs 234 pounds, up about six from last season.

“I actually haven’t lost any weight,” Gurley said. “I actually gained weight. … I feel good though. I feel like the best I’ve felt in a while.”

Said Bobo: “He’s moving quicker. Just the layoff and the time between the games has helped more than anything.”

Gurley said he’s living in the moment — not reflecting much on his success last season or looking too far ahead for the 2013 season.

Except he’d like to increase his role out of the backfield catching the ball. He had 16 receptions for 117 yards without a touchdown last season.

“Hopefully, I get in the passing game more,” Gurley said. “Get a couple of touchdowns receiving. That would look good for me right there.”

Gurley got “a fair amount of snaps” in Tuesday’s closed scrimmage, said receiver Chris Conley, who added, “You want to protect guys.”

Gurley has shown in practice the playmaking ability that he did last season.

“As long as he keeps running like he’s running, it’s a good life for us,” offensive guard Dallas Lee said.

“He’s just been Todd,” Conley said. “The really big kid who is just extremely talented. He’s gotten quicker in the offseason. I look for that to affect his game. He’s faster. Him and Keith are extremely talented guys, and I think the fact that they know more about the offense and what defenses are going to be doing to them has made them a lot more of a threat.”

Quarterback Aaron Murray said he is expecting even greater things for Gurley this year.

“Oh, man, a lot,” he said. “I think he’s ready to take on a bigger load for all he did last year. He’s a hard working kid. He’s done a great job in practice so far. He’s not a kid that’s saying, ‘Oh, I had a great freshman year, I’m done.’ He’s out there to show everyone that it wasn’t just a fluke that he’s ready to have a great next two years because I doubt he’ll stay a third.”

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@JeffSchultzAJC @SethEmerson @BizWriterKristi Less than 3 weeks until basketball opener. Not that we are counting down.

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