Georgia's 10 most important players of 2013: Down to No. 2

semerson@macon.comMay 30, 2013 

As we preview the 2013 football season, we are counting down Georgia's 10 most important players. This is not a ranking of the team's best players, rather a look at the players who are most vital to the team's success. That takes into account the team's strengths and weaknesses, the depth at certain positions, and the importance of each position.

No. 10 was John Theus.

No. 9 was Malcolm Mitchell.

No. 8 was Marshall Morgan.

No. 7 was Tray Matthews.

No. 6 was Josh Harvey-Clemons.

No. 5 was Jordan Jenkins.

No. 4 was Damian Swann.

No. 3 was Amarlo Herrera.

Now, for No. 2:


Because even though there’s a star-caliber player behind him, Gurley is a game-changer. (You’ll notice we didn’t chicken out and say “Gurshall” was the second-most important. No, just Gurley.) His blend of size and speed makes him a guy that can move the sticks or break it open. His stats last year were not the product of the offense, or at least the product of the offensive line. (The offensive line coach is the first one to say that.) Gurley is just that explosive with the football, which makes him so valuable. This isn’t to say Keith Marshall couldn’t also succeed. In fact, he did when given the opportunity last year. But the evidence from last year is that Gurley is just at another level. There’s a reason he’s being mentioned as a darkhorse Heisman candidate. And a successful run game opens things up for the pass, as Georgia showed last year.

QUOTABLE: "I'm not a freshman anymore. I'm a sophomore. We've got young guys coming in like J.J. (Green), A.J. (Turman) coming in. So it's kind of like me taking on that role to look after those guys, just like Ken (Malcome) and Richard (Samuel) and all those guys did with me last year when I came in. It's kind of a bigger role, and to work on the little things." - Gurley

BEST CASE: Rushing-wise, a basic repeat of his debut season (1,385 yards, 17 touchdowns) will suffice. But how about a bit more action in the passing game? The Bulldogs worked on that in spring practice, in addition to having Gurley work on his pass protection.

WORST CASE: Opposing defenses focus on Gurley, and unforeseen struggles in Georgia’s passing game allows the line to be stacked. Gurley gets a bit of a swell head because of all the press. Gurley gets hurt. These are all possibilities, but not major ones. The real impediment to Gurley having another year of 1,000-plus yards is his own line. It was good enough last year.

FINAL WORD: If Georgia’s offensive line takes a step forward this year, and Gurley is as good as last year, then records will fall. Gurley’s importance to the offense was evident last year. The Bulldogs finally not only had a consistent run game, but a spectacular one. And the results spoke for themselves

Follow Seth Emerson at @sethemerson.

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