Todd Gurley shrugs off veteran's flattery

ATHENS, Ga. -- Todd Gurley isn’t very good at accepting compliments.

Asked Monday about how Georgia safety Shawn Williams compared him to former Alabama star Trent Richardson, the Bulldogs’ freshman tailback said Williams must have been referring to their physical resemblance.

“I think he probably compared me because I wear No. 3 and I have dreads like Trent Richardson. I have a long, long, long way to go to be like Trent Richardson,” Gurley said of the comparison to a player who finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting last season after rushing for 1,679 yards for the BCS champion Crimson Tide. “But for a senior, a starting senior, one of the key players on the team, to call me that, that’s big. So I just take that and just keep working.”

Williams is not alone in gushing over Gurley’s capabilities. The freshman has unofficially rushed for 145 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries in the Bulldogs’ two preseason scrimmages thus far.

Without question, he is in line to play a significant role in Georgia’s running game this fall.

“He’s a beast,” junior quarterback Aaron Murray said. “He’s a great running back, very big kid. He’s just a great-looking running back and I think the one strength he has is great balance. I just see him just getting hit and bouncing off guys and bouncing off guys and spinning around and he really just doesn’t go down. It takes a lot to knock him down.”

Gurley said his comfort level with his various tailback duties has grown exponentially since arriving on campus in June.

For one thing, Coach Mark Richt credited Gurley and fellow freshmen Keith Marshall and Quayvon Hicks for their improving recognition in picking up blitzing defenders and protecting the quarterback.

“[I’ve been] just coming in from day one and really knowing nothing and now just getting a feel for the system and learning everything and being able to come out in the scrimmage and just show what I can do,” Gurley said. “I feel like I came a long way since the first day of camp.

Georgia’s coaches have not named a starting tailback yet -- in fact, they haven’t even revealed a tailback pecking order -- but it is clear that Gurley, Marshall and Ken Malcome will all get their share of carries.

Not that it necessarily means anything significant about the depth chart, but sophomore Malcome was the first tailback to register a carry in a rushing drill the Bulldogs ran early in Monday’s practice, followed by Marshall and then Gurley.

Gurley would not admit that he has given much thought to starting the Sept. 1 opener against Buffalo, but he would obviously be excited to receive such an opportunity.

“I really haven’t even thought of that,” Gurley said. “It would be great just to start in the SEC as a true freshman at any position, but I really haven’t thought about starting. I’m just trying to get everything down.”

If he keeps running like he has in Georgia’s scrimmages, it would appear to be only a matter of time before he’s the first tailback on the field at some point this fall.