By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
It was just a little before two o’clock one afternoon two years ago when Dabo Swinney noticed he got a call from Georgia head football coach Mark Richt.
The Clemson coach was not sure what Richt wanted and it was a little strange he was calling on a day when highly touted running back Todd Gurley was going to announce where he planned to play college football for the next four years. His choices came down to Clemson and Georgia.
At the time, Swinney and the Clemson coaches felt real good about getting Gurley, a four-star prospect from Tarboro, NC.
“I was fired up about Gurley. I’m thinking we are getting Gurley. I’ll never forget it,” Swinney said. “The day he was supposed to announce, I was on edge. Most of the time, not all the time, you know when you are getting a guy.”
What put Swinney on edge was not what Richt called about, but what he was doing when the two were talking.
“He is on the treadmill,” Swinney said. “I asked him, ‘I guess you are not real worried about this announcement coming up at two.’ I knew right then that we probably were not getting him.”
Richt tried to play the situation off with one of those “you never know” lines, but Swinney was not fooled. So when he got off the phone and walked down the hall to recruiting coordinator Jeff Scott’s office and said, “We are not getting Gurley.”
He was right. Later that afternoon, Gurley announced he was going to play for Georgia, which he will do Saturday when No. 5 Georgia visits eighth-ranked Clemson in Death Valley. A month earlier five-star running back Keith Marshall, who is from Raleigh, NC, chose Georgia over Clemson as well.
“We were thinking, ‘How in the world did they get these two great backs?’ They did a great job recruiting them the right way and that’s where they felt the most comfortable at,” Swinney said. “They are two really, really talented and dynamic backs. They are going to be a handful come Saturday night.”
Stopping Gurley and Marshall, a.k.a. Gurshall, will be the Tigers’ main task when the two teams kickoff at 8 p.m. on Saturday. The two combined for 2,144 yards and 25 touchdowns in their first season at Georgia.
“I tell you, they are difficult to stop,” Clemson linebacker Quandon Christian said. “You can’t arm tackle either one of them or they will run right over you.”
Gurley posted the second best output by a freshman tailback in school history with 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns, while Marshall had 759 yards and eight touchdowns.
“Marshall? Everybody thinks he is a little guy. He is no little guy,” Swinney said. “He is put together. He is a big strong back. He is fast. I really love both of those guys. We thought we had them both.
“When Marshall went to bed that night, he was coming to Clemson. I guess he had a bad dream or something, I don’t know. He woke up and went to Georgia.”
Gurley has been named a preseason Firs-Team All-American by several media outlets, including Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News.
“I just knew we were going to get Gurley,” Swinney said. “I just knew it. We felt great about him. Both are phenomenal people. They’re great kids and were tremendous all throughout the recruiting process. They come from good families, too.”