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NCAA Football Georgia Bulldogs

Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley Hope To Break Stigma

John David Mercer – USATODAY Sports

The Georgia Bulldogs have recruited a lot of talented running backs in recent years, many of whom have shown flashes of their immense talent and potential early in their careers. However, in the recent history of Georgia football, so many of those talented running backs have flamed out early, never lived up to the hype they once garnered and failed to reach their full potential as a player.

Names like Caleb King, Washaun Ealey and Isaiah Crowell fit this mold of great potential that never materialized, much to the dismay and frustration of Georgia fans. Whether it was due to injury, poor work ethic, off-field problems, academic issues or some other reason, so many of Georgia’s recent running backs have failed to live up to their promise. It’s become a trend for members of the Bulldogs backfield and a bit of a stigma as well.

Now, next in line to face that stigma is last year’s fantastic freshmen duo of Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley.

Both Marshall and Gurley burst onto the scene last season as true freshmen after both were highly regarded high school players. Marshall was the top-rated high school running back in the class of 2012 and ran for 759 yards with eight touchdowns for the Bulldogs last season. Gurley wasn’t quite as highly rated, but he was a four-star recruit and he immediately took the reins as Georgia’s starting running back. Gurley finished the season with 1,385 rushing yards, second in the SEC behind only Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, and 17 touchdowns.

The two true freshmen formed an incredible 1-2 punch in Georgia’s backfield that gave the Bulldogs a dynamic rushing attack, which helped them reach the SEC championship game for the second straight season. However, now Marshall and Gurley must find a way to repeat that success in 2013 and avoid the stigma that has plagued Georgia running backs over the past several years.

Both Marshall and Gurley fit the profile of Georgia’s star running backs of the past that burned out early in their careers. They were both highly-ranked recruits with great promise and potential and they both played early in their college careers with considerable success, giving Georgia fans hope that they could continue to perform at a high level for years to come. Both of them do seem to have a good head on their shoulders and a sense of maturity that some of their predecessors may have lacked.

But it doesn’t always take a lot to derail a promising career and what gets in the way isn’t always preventable. So as Marshall and Gurley move forward into their sophomore year, they won’t just be fighting each other for playing time and they won’t just be fighting to get Georgia back to the SEC Championship game. They’ll be fighting the stigma of failure and disappointment that has tarnished the careers of the Bulldog running backs who came before them.

Both players appear capable of rising above this stigma and Georgia does have the benefit of having two great running backs should one of them fall victim to it, but sophomore slumps are far too prevalent and the history of Georgia running backs too disappointing to think that Marshall and Gurley can rise above it–until they prove otherwise.