UGA running back Todd Gurley (3) siffarms South Carolina Gamecocks cornerback Ahmad Christian during the second quarter at Sanford Stadium this past Saturday.
ATHENS — Call him Todd Gurley II, as in “The Second.” But don’t call him junior and, by all means, don’t refer to him as “Gurshall.”
Georgia fans have probably noticed that Gurley is sporting the roman numeral II on the back of his jersey this season. He’s named after his father, Todd Gerome Gurley, who lives in Baltimore, but he prefers to be known as the second, not as junior.
It’s actually something he wanted on his jersey last season. But his request was turned down by UGA director of equipment John Meshad.
“I’m just trying to get it up there and Meshad was like, ‘Man, if I do it for you I’ve got to do it for the whole team because we’ve got a whole team of juniors and seconds,’ ” Gurley said with a laugh.
But Gurley, who had 1,745 all-purpose yards and 18 touchdowns as a freshman, went back to Meshad with his request before this season. And it was granted this time.
“I felt like I deserved it after last year and he was like, ‘All right, I’ve got you,’ ” Gurley said. “So you’ve got to earn it.”
Meshad confirmed that account.
“It’s like I told him last year, ‘Do you know how many people are the second? Come on, Todd. That’s why they use junior,’ ” Meshad said with a chuckle. “That was a big joke last year. But I told him if he earned it we’d do it this year. Sure enough, he reminded me about a week before picture day, and I’m a man of my word.”
Gurley is definitely making a name for himself. His 143 yards per game rushing average currently ranks seventh in the nation and his came against a pair of top-10 teams. Gurley had 132 yards on 30 carries in Saturday’s 41-30 win against No. 6 South Carolina and added an 8-yard TD catch, the first of his career.
Getting more involved in the passing game was a goal Gurley set for himself this season. He had 16 catches for 117 yards last season.
“I really didn’t sit down in the offseason and say, ‘I want to try to get this and do that,’ ” Gurley said. “But one of my main things was just get more plays in the passing game and work on playing without the ball. That was about all.”
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has remarked that Gurley’s pass-blocking has improved immensely since last season, too. He stood up an oncoming South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney on one play that resulted in an Aaron Murray completion.
“I’m not a freshman anymore,” he said. “I’m a sophomore. Basically I feel more comfortable than I did last year for the first two games.”
Gurley revealed that he hardly practiced at all last week due to the pulled thigh muscle that he suffered on a 75-yard touchdown run in the opener against Clemson. He remains somewhat banged up coming out of Saturday’s contest.
So Georgia’s bye week is coming at a particularly good time for him. The Bulldogs are off this Saturday, then play host to North Texas on Sept. 21.
As for his namesake, Gurley said he has a good reason for going by Gurley II rather than junior.
“Being the second, I can (one day) name my son the third,” he said.
NOTES: Georgia announced that wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell underwent season-ending surgery on his right knee Tuesday in Athens to repair a torn ACL. … The Bulldogs practiced for 90 minutes in full pads Tuesday in a workout that was closed to the media. The Bulldogs will have another full-contact workout Wednesday and go in shorts Thursday before breaking for the weekend. … Former Georgia player and Auburn coach Pat Dye was selected for induction into UGA’s Circle of Honor. He will be recognized along with fellow inductees Lori Strong (gymnastics) and Marissa Catlin (tennis) during the North Texas game. … Tight end Arthur Lynch played every snap his position was on the field against South Carolina, 73 plays in all.