Ten@10: Todd Gurley a big focus of ESPN’s ‘Draft Academy’

Former Georgia tailback Todd Gurley gets a lot of air time and is fairly revealing of himself in the ESPN series "Draft Academy," which debuts tonight at 7 p.m. (ESPN photo)

Former Georgia tailback Todd Gurley gets a lot of air time and is fairly revealing of himself in the ESPN series “Draft Academy,” which debuts tonight at 7 p.m. (ESPN photo)

THE TEN AT 10:

1. Have you wondered what’s been going on with former Georgia tailback Todd Gurley since he ingloriously left the program last December? Well, ESPN is about to fill you in.

Gurley is a big part of the second season of the network’s original series, “Draft Academy,” which debuts tonight at 7 p.m. Gurley is one of six NFL prospects whose preparation for the upcoming draft is chronicled in a series of four episodes. The other five profiled are FSU quarterback Jameis Winston, Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, North Dakota State running back John Crockett, Missouri defensive end Shane Ray and Ohio State receiver Devin Smith.

Click THIS LINK to see a video promo.

The first episode – of which Gurley is a primary focus — introduces viewers to the players and fills them in on their backgrounds. The remaining three episodes highlight a different part of their draft experience: April 21 (NFL Combine), April 28 (Pro Day workout) and May 5 (NFL Draft).

I’ve been able to watch a screener copy of the premiere episode, which to nobody’s surprise opens by focusing on the controversial Winston. But Gurley is prominently featured in the first episode. He is highlighted in segments at the 13:35 mark, 17:50, 19:17, 28:47 and 42:57.

This was Gurley's last carry as a Bulldog, a six-yard run for a first down at the Auburn 11 in the fourth-quarter of a blowout victory. He tore the ACL in his left knee on the play. (Getty Images)

This was Gurley’s last carry as a Bulldog, a six-yard run for a first down at the Auburn 11 in the fourth-quarter of a blowout victory. He tore the ACL in his left knee on the play. (Getty Images)

2. We haven’t heard all that much from Gurley in these parts ever since he went out with a season-ending knee injury on Nov. 15 in a win over Auburn. He did make a brief appearance in Athens and talked to reporters on March 18 when he came back for UGA’s Pro Day. But otherwise, Gurley has spent his time in Gulf Breeze, Fla., at the James Andrews Institute where he has been focusing on his rehabilitation from ACL surgery on his left knee.

As he has in the other public interviews, Gurley in the telecast again accepts responsibility for his actions that resulted in a four-game suspension in the middle of his junior season last fall. Gurley admitted to UGA that he had accepted more than $3,000 to autograph memorabilia for low-level sports collectible peddlers, which violates NCAA rules regarding amateurism.

“It was stupid and selfish by me,” Gurley says while setting on the steps of his Florida condo. “But it’s something I’ve got to live with.”

Gurley said he had “goals, lots of goals,” for the 2014 season. “It was national championship and the Heisman was going to take care of itself.”

Instead, for Gurley it was limited to 911 yards on 123 carries in six games with 10 touchdowns. He left UGA as second only to Herschel Walker in touchdowns (44), all-purpose yards (4,322) and rushing (3,285). That’s while playing in only 27 of a possible 40 games due to injuries and suspension.

Gurley firmly believes he should still be the first running back taken in the 2015 draft. This, of course, is of considerable debate between him and Wisconsin’s Gordon, something ESPN’s producers instinctively focus on in Draft Academy.

“I should be the first back taken,” Gurley confidently proclaims. “I’m the best.”

3. One somewhat funny scene in the show is when ESPN’s cameras follow Gurley and some friends to a sports bar in Florida to watch the Super Bowl. Of course, the game is won by the New England Patriots when the Seattle Seahawks throw an interception on the 1-yard line and failed to hand the ball to Marshawn Lynch.

Gurley jumps up from the table incredulous that they didn’t give the ball to arguably the NFL’s best back. “Run the ball!” he yells.

The Bulldogs lost in similar fashion early in the 2014 season when they did run the ball with Gurley on first-and-goal at South Carolina’s 4 trailing late in the game. But realizing ESPN’s were trained closely on him, Gurley held back.

“I’m just going to be quiet on this one,” he said with a grin.

4. Of course, Georgia came out of its debacle with Gurley in pretty good shape. An unpolished gem was revealed in the form of Nick Chubb, who took over as starter in the sixth game and went on to rush for 1,547 yards, the best by a Bulldog freshman since Herschel and the second most in the SEC. He was named the league’s freshman of the year.

A.J. Turman was able to pronounce himself fit to play with a 106-yard rushing performance in the G-Day Game. (UGA photo by John Kelley)

A.J. Turman was able to pronounce himself fit to play with a 106-yard rushing performance in the G-Day Game. (UGA photo by John Kelley)

Understandably, we didn’t get to see much of Chubb in action in spring practice, nor in the G-Day Game. His protected health became especially important after fellow tailbacks Keith Marshall (hamstring) and Sony Michel (shoulder) went out with injuries early in spring camp.

As a result, we’ve seen a lot of Brendan Douglas and A.J. Turman during the 15-practice session, which will conclude with Tuesday and Thursday practices this week. Turman, who missed the last two seasons with foot and toe injuries, led all rushers with 106 yards and two touchdowns.

“It was good to get out in front of the fans and play well,” said Turman, a sophomore who many may have forgotten came to Georgia as a 4-star prospect out of Orlando. “It helped build up my confidence a lot, but I still have a few things to work on to get better. I wasn’t out there to prove anything. I just wanted to play as hard as I could. It felt good running the ball, just like high school.”

Chubb did make a brief appearance in the first half. He had three carries for 34 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown run that concluded his day.

Nick Chubb scored on his third and final carry in the third quarter of the G-Day Game. (UGA photo by John Kelley)

Nick Chubb scored on his third and final carry in the third quarter of the G-Day Game. (UGA photo by John Kelley)

5. Speaking of Chubb, there’s a fascinating read from by Jamil Zainaldin in The Saporta Report this week that focuses on the heritage of Chubb’s family in Northwest Georgia.

I, for one, was not aware of the incredible lineage from which Chubb was born. He’s a descendant of the eight Chubb brothers, freed slaves from North Carolina who settled in an area that’s now encompassed by Floyd County near Cave Spring and Rome.

The story is a focus on the family – not on Nick Chubb himself – and is certainly to rich and deep for me to summarize here. So I’ll simply direct you to a link and suggest you READ FOR YOURSELF.

But I’ll say this: It does help explain from where Chubb gets his extraordinary work ethic.

6. Speaking of work ethic, it was good to see Joni Crenshaw’s rewarded as she was named Georgia’s new women’s basketball coach over the weekend.

Crenshaw, 36, was born the same year (1979) that Andy Landers took over as the first full-time head coach of Georgia women’s basketball program. The former Alabama player has been on Landers’ staff the last four seasons, the past three as associate head coach.

Turns out Greg McGarity (L) and Carla Willliams (R) found their next women's basketball coach already residing in Stegeman Coliseum. (UGA photo by John Kelley)

Turns out Greg McGarity (L) and Carla Willliams (R) found their next women’s basketball coach already residing in Stegeman Coliseum. (UGA photo by John Kelley)

Before joining the Bulldogs, Crenshaw was an assistant coach at LSU (2010-11), Alabama (2008-10), Louisiana Tech (2005-08) and Troy (2002-05).

Interestingly, Crenshaw was named the head coach after UGA administrators said they conducted a “national search” for Landers’ successor. That search also included communications with a Final Four coach, according to Carla Williams, Georgia’s deputy athletic director and a UGA basketball letterman who spearheaded the effort.

Williams declined to say who that coach was. But assuming it wasn’t UConn’s Geno Auriemma, or Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw — well-established coaches who have been at their respective institutions for decades — it would have had to have been South Carolina’s Dawn Staley or Maryland’s Brenda Frease. Unless, that is, it was one of the assistants.

The question is, if Crenshaw was the best candidate for the job and she was already living in the Bulldogs’ back yard, why did UGA feel the need to conduct a national search? One would think such a storied and successful program could have come out and announced a succession plan for Crenshaw immediately after Landers announced his retirement.

But Williams revealed that it was during the interview process that they discovered Crenshaw’s inherent value.

“We already knew that she was impressive,” Williams told reporters at Crenshaw’s introduction on Monday. “She’s had some opportunities to look at some other positions during here time here. But once we actually interviewed her, she blew us away. She was very well prepared. We talked to a lot of very good people and Joni, she competed really hard for the position. She actually just went out and took it. She earned it. …We knew once we talked to her that was going to be very, very tough to beat no matter who it was whether they were a sitting head coach or an assistant coach.”

7. An interesting side-note on Crenshaw is that she is engaged to be married. And her fiancé, Darius Taylor of Columbia, S.C., presents some interesting challenges for their relationship going forward.

Taylor

Taylor

Taylor is an assistant women’s basketball coach at South Carolina. And apparently a very good one. According to his bio on the school’s website, Taylor is given a lot of credit for the development of the Gamecocks’ post players over the past four years as that program has ascended. The former Michigan basketball player is also supposed to be a pretty good recruiter, too.

Certainly, Crenshaw’s appointment by the Bulldogs will mean Taylor will be joining her at Georgia? Not only could it enhance UGA’s program, but it might weaken South Carolina’s as well, right?

Wrong.

According to Williams, the state of Georgia’s nepotism policy will prevent Crenshaw from bringing on her betrothed.

“She hasn’t even asked us about that because we’re all aware that there is a nepotism law in Georgia,” Williams said.

It will be worth watching, however, to see if a potential conflict of interest will affect Taylor’s employment in Columbia. Stay tuned.

Michael Edwards averaged 22 points a game at Michigan's Westland High. (Photo by Michigan.com)

Michael Edwards averaged 22 points a game at Michigan’s Westland High. (Photo by Michigan.com)

8. Speaking of basketball, Georgia’s men’s team has encountered some recruiting success for the second consecutive year in the state of Michigan.

After famously signing that state’s player of the year last spring in forward Yante Maten, the Bulldogs went back this year and secured the commitment of  Michael Edwards. The 6-foot-10, 225-pound center from Westland, Mich., is rated a 3-star recruit. Edwards averaged 22 points and 12 rebounds this past season as a high school senior.

Edward committed to UGA via Twitter over Nebraska and Kansas State on Monday night. According to basketball recruiting insiders, even though this maxes out the Bulldogs at 13 scholarships for next season, they’d still find room for Jaylen Brown. The No. 2 recruit in America reportedly still has UGA among his finalists.

9. It’s a big week for Georgia baseball. The Bulldogs (20-17, 6-9 SEC), who lost two of three to a mediocre Alabama team this past weekend, face No. 24 Georgia Tech (24-12) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Atlanta, then Kennesaw State (19-16) on Wednesday at 5 p.m. before returning home Friday for an SEC series with No. 2 LSU (31-6, 10-5 SEC) at Foley Field.

Freshman left-hander Bo Tucker (1-1, 2.55 ERA) will make his first career start Tuesday. He has made 14 relief appearances this year covering a span of 24.2 innings with 13 walks and 27 strikeouts. He pitched 2.1 scoreless innings in the first meeting with Tech. Last week at Clemson and Alabama, he combined to pitch 4.2 scoreless innings, allowing one hit with one walk and six strikeouts. Tech will start sophomore left-hander Ben Parr (5-1, 3.92 ERA) while the Owls will go with freshman right-hander AJ Moore (1-1, 5.23 ERA).

Yet another SEC championship for Georgia's men's tennis team. The one it secured this past weekend was its 39th overall. (UGA photo)

Yet another SEC championship for Georgia’s men’s tennis team. The one it secured this past weekend was its 39th overall. (UGA photo)

10. This & that: Congratulations to Georgia’s men’s tennis team. The No. 8 Bulldogs (19-3, 11-1) beat 14th-ranked Ole Miss 4-0 to win yet another SEC championship this past Saturday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. UGA has now won the SEC regular season championship 29 times, including three in a row, to go along with nine conference tournament crowns for a total of 38 combined league titles in program history. Georgia also secured the No. 1 seed in the upcoming SEC Tournament in College Station, Texas. … The Georgia Bulldogs had a significant presence in the Masters golf tournament this past week in Augusta. They’ll also have one in the Greater Gwinnett Championship, a Champions Tour event at Sugarloaf Country Club in Duluth. UGA’s Hall of Fame place-kicker Kevin Butler will be playing in it. Click HERE to find out why.


View Comments 0