Keith Marshall, 75 yards, touchdown.
Todd Gurley, 51 yards, touchdown.
Marshall, 72 yards, touchdown.
These are the words that have raced through Brad Lawings head all week. Its a sampling of what No. 5 Georgias freshman running backs can do. All three of those plays came last week in a 51-44 win against Tennessee. There are plenty more.
We went through their explosion plays (20 or more yards), and we have a whole highlight tape. We showed the kids, the Gamecocks defensive line coach said. They produce big plays because they have big playmakers on offense.
Gurley and Marshall are two of the biggest, and fastest, and most surprising. The two newcomers were expected to provide depth this year behind returning standout Isaiah Crowell. Instead, Crowell was dismissed from the team in the offseason. Thus far, no one in Athens has missed him.
In Athens, they are saying, Isaiah who? said Josh Norris, an NFL draft analyst for Rotoworld.com.
Norris evaluates seniors and juniors who might enter the draft, but its hard not to notice the two young backs when the Bulldogs tape is on the TV.
If you give them a crease, they are gone, South Carolina defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles said.
Gurley (6-foot-1, 218 pounds) leads the SEC with 107.2 yards per game, and Marshall (5-11, 216) is seventh with 85.6 per game, and they are the main reason the Bulldogs lead the SEC in rushing offense (248.8 yards per game) and total offense (536 per game).
As we all know, freshman running backs can certainly play and can play well, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said, thinking to Marcus Lattimores 182 yards against the Bulldogs as a freshman. Thats a position you dont have to have been there for two years and learn the offense and all that kind of stuff. Weve got to make sure they dont have room to run. That Tennessee game, I think two or three of their runs, I dont know if a Tennessee player touched them.
The Gamecocks are second in the SEC in rushing defense and seventh in the nation, allowing 77.6 yards per game. Their only vulnerability against the run came in the first half against Kentucky last week, when the Wildcats amassed 93 yards with a direct running attack much like the Bulldogs will employ.
These running backs are really good from Georgia, linebackers coach Kirk Botkin said. Their offense is very potent. They arent No. 1 in the SEC for nothing. Weve got our work cut out for us. There cant be any slipups like there was last week.
South Carolinas issues in run defense were attributable to linemen being in the wrong place and not enough effort chasing ball carriers, Quarles said.
We had some times we didnt handle it well as a defense, and then we kind of settled down in the second half and did a better job with it, Lawing said.
The Wildcats rushed 16 times for 27 yards in the second half.
Georgia is different, Lawing said. They probably have better athletes up front and carrying that football, so well see.