Only 76 players in the history of college football have earned the designation of Heisman Trophy winners. First awarded in 1935, the Heisman Trophy is considered the sport’s pinnacle of individual achievement.
SaturdayBlitz.com is tracking the race to the 78th Heisman Trophy throughout the 2013 college football season via the Heisman Top 25. Every week throughout the season, we are tracking the progress of the contenders, both their on-field impact and media presence.
It didn’t take long for RB Todd Gurley to make an indelible impact on the Georgia program in 2012. The true freshman rushed for 100 yards and 2 TDs in his career debut in a blowout win over Buffalo, starting a run of nine 100-yard performances in 14 games.
By season’s end, Gurley ran for 1,385 yards and 17 TDs in arguably the best defensive league in the nation. Gurley managed to post these stats with fellow RB Keith Marshall going for 759 rushing yards and 8 TDs and QB Aaron Murray throwing for 3,893 yards and 36 TDs. So it’s not difficult to see why the Bulldogs boast one of the strongest attacks entering this season.
Gurley’s ability to post stats worthy of Heisman conversation with Marshall and Murray doing what they did also explains how he belongs on this list. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo does an outstanding job getting the ball to his playmakers, enabling them to perform alongside fellow standouts. There were only four games in 2012 in which Gurley received 20 carries or more, but he made the most of the workload he received. While Marshall had the longest rushes from scrimmage, Gurley managed runs of 20 yards or more in 10 of 14 contests.
One of the most important aspects of Gurley’s candidacy is his proven ability to perform on stages big and small. Many tailbacks can shred the likes of Buffalo, Florida Atlantic and the 2012 Auburn defenses. It takes a special talent to go for 100 yards against the likes of Florida (118 yards, TD), Alabama (122 yards, 2 TDs) and Nebraska (125 yards, TD). As the level of competition increased, so too, seemingly, did Gurley’s play.
Gurley won’t have to come from the back of the pack this year on the Heisman scene. His strong play already has him on several preseason watch lists along with Murray. With a nationally televised season opener at Clemson in primetime and a potential season finale in the SEC Championship, Gurley will get all the national exposure he needs to state his case.
How Todd Gurley Wins The Heisman
The toughest task Gurley faces on his quest to Radio City Music Hall might be outshining his aforementioned teammates. That will be no easy task with QB Aaron Murray and RB Keith Marshall taking their turns to produce huge plays in the same backfield. For Gurley to get the nod, he must clearly be a steadier presence for the Bulldogs than Murray. Gurley also has to continue to keep Marshall behind him in carries per game.
The schedule sets up nicely for Georgia to make a run back to the SEC Championship in Atlanta, which would give Gurley several national stages. Each of the Bulldogs’ first two games will be enormous, with them playing at Clemson and home in a pivotal division matchup against South Carolina. Both opponents will almost certainly start out in the top 10. Gurley’s Heisman candidacy can afford a loss in one of those games, but certainly not both. The Florida-Georgia tilt always draws a national audience and a potential closing argument in the SEC Championship Game gives Gurley all the exposure he should need if he posts a Heisman-worthy season.
In all likelihood, Georgia must make a serious run at the SEC championship, if not the national championship. The only two running backs to win the Heisman Trophy since 2000 led their teams to the BCS National Championship Game.
• 222 rushes, 1,385 yards (6.2 yards per carry)
• 17 TDs
• 7 kickoff returns, 243 yards, TD
• 16 receptions, 117 yards
Compared To Past Heisman Winners
Mark Ingram, 2009: Ingram came from off the radar to win the 2009 Heisman Trophy largely because Alabama made its march toward the BCS national championship. He had a great season, running for 1,658 yards and 17 TDs and catching 32 passes for 334 yards and 3 TDs. Still, Ingram likely would have been an afterthought if not for the perception of dominant SEC defenses and the Crimson Tide’s team achievements. It’s easy to forget, but Stanford RB Toby Gerhart out-rushed Ingram by 200 yards and scored 11 more rushing TDs that season.
Reggie Bush, 2005: During his Heisman campaign, Bush rushed for 1,740 yards and 16 TDs, but he did much more than that. He also caught 37 passes for 478 yards and 2 TDs and returned a punt for a TD as well. Having the quintessential Heisman moment doesn’t hurt, either. Bush enjoyed his on a sensational punt-return touchdown against Washington.