Gurley news creates a bye-week buzz for Bulldogs

Georgia tailback Nick Chubb was surrounded by inquisitive media following Wednesday's news that Todd Gurley may soon return. (AJC photo by Chip Towers)

Georgia tailback Nick Chubb was surrounded by inquisitive media following Wednesday’s news that Todd Gurley may soon return. (AJC photo by Chip Towers)

ATHENS — Developments regarding Todd Gurley’s possible return for Georgia created quite at scene at Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall on Wednesday, especially considering it was a mid-week practice during a bye week.

Georgia coach Mark Richt had a little fun with that when he was greeted for his post-practice interview by an unusually large throng of media, which included the television cameras most of the Atlanta local news stations.

“Well, I know you wanted to know how beautiful the weather was out there,” Richt quipped. “It was a beautiful day in Athens, Ga. If I was a recruit I’d want to come to Georgia.”

Of course, Richt knew the unusual turnout was to gather reaction on Wednesday’s news that UGA had applied to have Gurley’s eligibility reinstated. Richt did not really provide any new updates on the situation. He provided a few previously unknown details and some insights on Gurley’s demeanor and his situations impact on the team. But much of what he said was rehash of what he’d communicated earlier in the day when he first addressed the situation on the SEC coaches’ weekly teleconference call.

In any case, following is an account of most of the comments Richt provided. Also below is some of what a few players had to say about it. As it turned out, only select freshmen were available as per the pre-determined practice interview schedule for this week.

COACH MARK RICHT:

On whether UGA had heard back from the NCAA on its reinstatement request …

“No. All I know is what y’all know, whatever was reported about Todd wanting to be reinstated and us going through the process of getting that done.”

On the effect Gurley’s return might have on the team’s play …

“It’d be wonderful. We’d definitely like to know in one way or another in time to prepare our team properly. Without a doubt it would be very exciting if the answer were to be he could play in the game.”

On Gurley’s practice participation …“The Thursday prior to the Missouri game is when the news came out. I gave Todd the choice on whether he’d be at practice or not. At first he wanted to practice and be with his teammates. But after he thought it through he thought that he could possibly be a distraction to the team and didn’t want to be that. He wanted the coaches at least for one practiced to try to do whatever we needed to do to get the other guys ready to go. So he ended up not going to practice on that Thursday. But the next week, he was there at everything and I think it was really good medicine for him. I’ve talked to him a couple of times throughout this thing in person, texting back and forth here and there.”

On Gurley’s reaction to the team’s play without him …

“One of the things he mentioned during last week’s game against Arkansas is he just enjoyed watching the game and watching his teammates play and he enjoyed watching Chubb do his thing. He said he felt a little bit like a proud father watching Chubb play ball.”

On Gurley’s demeanor throughout this process. …

“His spirits have been good. And he has tried to not be a distraction to the team in any way. He’s tried to support the team through practice and things of that nature.”

On any counsel he has given Gurley …

“I think we all make mistakes. What I’ve always asked of our players is if they do make a mistake to be honest about it and to take their discipline like a man and then move on in a positive direction and learn from it. I think that’s the approach Todd’s taking right now and many other players over the years. The goal is not only to teach the guys how to play football but to educate them. This is part of the education process.”

On his level confidence that Gurley will get reinstated before Florida …

“I don’t know. I’m optimistic. I think that we as an institution and Todd as a student-athlete did everything within the protocol of the governing body, the NCAA. So hopefully all will end well, and hopefully sooner than later.”

On whether the news affected Gurley’s attitude at practice …

“You could say so. I’ll say this about him: He has tried hard to stay in condition while he hasn’t been able to play. He wasn’t getting a ton of reps in practice and he wasn’t playing in the game. So he’s been doing some extra conditioning on his own. Was there a little more purpose today? Maybe. He was working pretty hard. But he was working pretty hard even when he knew he wasn’t going to play.”

On when he knew what he knew …

“I knew Missouri. No. I knew Arkansas. No. I mean, I knew that the whole time. But now I don’t know. So, yeah, I’m hoping he could play. Watching him practice, you’re hoping these reps are ones that count.”

On whether team has grown stronger as result of Gurley’s situation …

“I think the bottom line is, if we keep winning, yes. If we start losing, it doesn’t matter what happened the last two weeks. People will judge you by whether you keep winning more than what we did the last two weeks, in my opinion.”

On how he’ll handle tailback rotation with Gurley’s return …

“I’m just going to wait on that one until we know that one.”

On how to handle preparations not knowing for sure …

“We’re just going to go on about our business and prepare like we’ve been preparing. If he can play, we’ll be excited. If he can’t, then we’ll just try to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

On whether the national interest has surprised him …

“Yes and no. Todd obviously was having a great season up to this point and a lot of people were mentioning him as a Heisman candidate and I think rightfully so. The numbers were there, his style of play or whatever you want to call it, was very attractive to people. You could see he’s a little bit different from most other guys out there. So he already had so much attention drawn toward him, to have this happen, it’s not that shocking really.”

FRESHMAN TAILBACK NICK CHUBB:

On Gurley’s possible return to pregame locker room …

“He’s Todd. He’s a very vocal player. He gets everybody pumped up and motivated to play. So he comes in with all those factors. I think we’ll be more confident with him.”

On Gurley’s demeanor amid investigation ...

“He’s been the same.”

On his state of readiness to take over as starter …

“Throughout the whole summer and the offseason, we were all preparing to just be the best back we can be. All of us. I had to step up. The rest of my teammates have been behind me, helping out, pushing me. It’s a big role, Georgia running back. Not only that, but coming in after Todd. So I feel like everyone was happy with what we’ve done without Todd. But if he comes back, it’ll be even better.”

On how has felt to be Georgia’s starting tailback …

“I’ve been preparing for it since I was a young kid. It came on me fast, but I was ready for it. The coaches have been coaching me up and the linemen are opening up holes for me. So everybody’s putting up an effort. I enjoy it. But I’m still staying focused and working hard.”

On what he knows about Georgia-Florida …

“From what they’ve been saying, it’s always a physical game. They’ll be a lot of running and short, tough yards. We’ve got to bust it open and keep pounding. That’s what they’ve been saying. They’re a physical team and very hard-nosed. We’ve got to be ready.”

FRESHMAN DEFENSIVE BACK DOMINICK SANDERS:

On whether Gurley news has affected preparations …

“Not really. We’re still giving 100 percent effort. We’re still going hard. We’re not letting down because we don’t have him right now. But, you know, everything’s going to be all right.”

On how Gurley’s return will affect team’s play …

“I really can’t say. Of course, I’d love him to come back. But there’s a lot going on.”

FRESHMAN TIGHT END JEB BLAZEVICH

On what outcome he expects on Gurley …

“Whatever happens with that will be God’s will.”


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