Todd Gurley: Feed Me, Seymour


Photo by Cassie Wright Photography (http://www.shotbycassie.com/blog/)

Photo by Cassie Wright Photography (http://www.shotbycassie.com/blog/)

It’s not the Eddie George Plate, it’s the Eddie Georgia Plate–and it is fit for a Big Dawg.

Feed Me, Seymour

I love dreaming, but it requires sleep, which as you can imagine, I don’t do enough between August and April. If I were dreaming, the following scene would be typical of the my imagination a play:

I’m in a beaten-up, sky blue 1970s Ford pickup truck driving up the Pacific Coast highway. I’m on my way to the Big Sur city jail to bail out Jene Bramel, who got into a bar fight with Rand Paul.

(It’s a dream, roll with it. And this is the nature of my dreams. As a kid, I had a series of nightmares that were different each time, but they always began with me in the main hall of a Gothic castle where Vincent Price was on a throne attached to a roulette wheel. He commanded me to spin the wheel and the number that came up corresponded with my dream. Weird? Only if you make it weird…)

I go to the city jail’s offices to pay for Bramel’s release, but Jeno is now treating two sick infants of the mayor’s daughter down the hall. He’ll be processed in an hour.

Doctors are always making you wait.

I passed a little diner with a peculiar name on the way to the jail, so I circle back for some breakfast. I don’t remember the name until I pull into the driveway. Scout’s Diner: Premium Picks.

I walk in, take a seat at the counter, and open the menu. All the dishes are past NFL player comparisons for 2015 prospects.

None of the prospects’ names are listed with the dishes–only the past player comps–and the meals are the restaurant’s food matched to each rookie’s playing style. When they serve you the food, it comes with an iPad that displays the video highlights of that player.

(Maybe DraftBreakdown.com should open a diner…)

The idea of Jene Bramel kicking any politician’s ass has me ravenous. As I flip through the pages of he menu, I see a section titled “Bell Cows: Feed Me, Seymour.”

It’s a selection worthy of a dream:

The Slow-Roasted Earl Campbell Pork Plate sounds amazing, except the meat is processed on a farm in Muncie, Indiana and I don’t know enough about Muncie to say it’s a good thing. The oddest thing I saw on the menu was Drunken Rowboat Noodles, Cedric Benson Style, which the waitress says is an underrated dish. However, she warned that if you get too much of a bite of the horseradish sauce you’ll tear up.

I saw what I wanted early on and nothing else is as appealing.

“I’ll take the Southern-Fried Eddie Georgia Plate, please.”

“You mean, the Eddie George, right?” she says, smiling at me. Her bite-gnarled pencil remains inches from her pad. She doesn’t think I know what I asked for. “Nowadays, most guys rolling in here get the Javon Ringer Spartan Breakfast Biscuit and a cup of coffee–it’s quick, it’s cheap, and fills you up til lunch.”

I get it, but I know my appetite today. I need an old-school, glutton’s delight. Something Babe Ruth, John Goodman, and Andre the Giant would savor: a Flinstone-sized, double-cut, bone-in rib-eye aged to perfection and chicken fried with griddle-iron onions. Its co-star is the “Lower the Shoulder Pancake Package,” a brown sugar pork braised to perfection, pulled, and scattered throughout a lumberjack-sized stack of stiff-arm pancakes. Both powerhouses are served with a side “safety eyeball whites” (scrambled or over easy) and a healthy portion of Jim’s (Hash)Browns.

I’m thinking it, but keep it to myself: I ain’t playing, sister-girl.

“Nope, I know who this is, and with all due respect to Eddie George, I know your cook meant to name it the Eddie Georgia.”

She puts her pad on the counter and leans towards me, bracing herself on the counter with her forearms.

“You know, the cook time is approximately 7-16 months.”

“And you’re telling me it won’t will be worth the wait.”

A slow smile surfaces from the waitresses face as she scribbles the order in her pad, nodding in acknowledgement that she knows that I know what they all know in the back of the house. She kind of looks like my wife, but she wouldn’t be caught dead in a kitchen. It is a dream though…

“Now, I want to hear you say it right when you call it to the kitchen…”

“You know it, Big Daddy,” purring my way as she pockets the pad in her apron and slides the pencil behind her ear. She saunters towards the kitchen, stopping momentarily to top-off a trucker’s coffee as he stares at Jeremy Langford highlights. Half of that Sparty Biscuit is still sitting there lonely on the plate.

Reaching the expo station, she turns to me and offers me the briefest wink and smile before giving me what I came to hear.”

“Fire up a Todd Gurley . . . side of safeties scrambled . . . the Jim Browns smothered and chunked!”

Yep, Gurley is the most talented back in this class–and it’s a class that sports a varied and tasty menu of options. Gurley may not be the most productive of the group when it’s all said and done, but he’ll be difficult to bet against.

You Only Need a Small Taste to Recognize Big Flavor

Eddie George was a great running back until turf toe rendered him a lesser player. The George comparison aside, Todd Gurley may never be a great running back, but he flashes characteristics that I see from the most skillful players at the position.

There’s a lot more to Gurley’s skill set than ballcarrier. He’s one of the better pass protectors in this class. Even where he struggles in pass pro, he often sets angles that help his quarterback in the pocket.

However, today’s focus is what we come to see: rock toting. The plays that reveal Gurley’s Pro-Bowl potential aren’t breakaway runs. I find that the plays from a future NFL star’s college tape that impress me the most are rarely that impressive in a box score.

Here are three small tastes of Gurley’s game–gains of less than 20 yards–that scream big flavor.

No.1: Anticipation at the Line, Eyes-Feet Integration, Balance, and Natural Power.

This second-down run in the late third quarter against an A-gap run blitz from the linebacker could serve as a litmus test for many runners. A below average runner, probably gets tackled for a four-yard loss. An average runner avoids the four-yard loss, but loses three yards from the penetration into the backfield that comes a little later in the play. A good runner not only avoids these two opponents, but also he works past the third penetrating defender.  Gurley not only does all three, but he earns positive yards on a play doomed for a loss.

The right guard deserves a lot of credit for picking up the run blitz and funneling the defender far enough to the left that Gurley has a chance to react with a cutback. Still, there’s good reason to admire the hip flexibility that Gurley possesses to work to his right and then the coordination to hop past the penetration three yards into the backfield and then step through a wrap from a third defender.

This isn’t a rope drill; these are three very different actions Gurley has to make in succession and it requires a strong recall of the different agility drills he has practice, but also an uncommon integration of a variety of movements in succession. The fact that he executes these maneuvers well enough to reach the line of scrimmage and still have the balance and body position to only have to execute a touch drill to stay upright is impressive work.

After the touch drill, he’s wrapped high and low by two defenders, but consider how naturally powerful Gurley is to go from an unbalanced position to getting wrapped in this short of a span and still bull forward for two yards. Also consider the effort expended in the backfield prior to that touch drill and the wrap-ups.

These are the kinds of two-yard gains that excite me far more about a running back prospect than many 70-yard runs.

No.2: Good Judgment, Lateral Agility, and Functional Speed

This cutback on 3rd and 16 for an improbable first down on the final play of the third quarter is an excellent display of athleticism for a big man, but what matters most is the context that you won’t see here: Gurley isn’t prone to playing hero with unnecessary cutbacks and bounces outside.

There are numerous plays in this game where Gurley recognizes that his team would be better served if he battled through filled creases and earned the difficult one and two-yard gains despite  a hint of a cutback lane elsewhere. These were first and second-down plays or short-yardage plays on third down.

In this situation, Gurley knows that a run called here is a license to thrill and that’s what he does when he encounters good edge containment by the South Carolina defense on this run to the strong side left end.

As he follows the pulling linemen to the end, you can see Gurley spots a potential cutback towards the tight end’s block, but the opening isn’t wide enough to generate a gain that’s worth the effort. With the defensive back unblocked at the let sideline, Gurley reverses field with decisive, balanced footwork and an impressive burst to bend further into the backfield and evade three Gamecocks in pursuit.

At this point, it’s all speed and Gurley bends the corner like he’s on the backside turn of a track, carrying a baton rather than a ball. I don’t know if Gurley runs better than a 4.5-40, but Arian Foster was a 4.68-40 man entering the league and Marshawn Lynch was a 4.46-40 man en route to the Bills. Lynch hasn’t been considered this fast in years, but Foster still looks a lot quicker. Both backs have proven capable of this kind of reversal of field. Gurley has this kind of functional speed. It’s also stamina to maintain this speed, a huge weapon in a bell-cow runner’s arsenal.

 No.3: Hip and Leg Flexibility, Repertoire of Moves to Defeat Opposition, and Short-Area Quickness

Speaking of Lynch, this 2nd and 10 run to the left flat where Gurley defeats five defenders that have him dead to rights is reminiscent of Beast Mode.

With the tight end sealing the edge inside, Gurley bounces the play towards his wide receiver, who fails to block the corner. The defensive back shoots for Gurley’s legs four yards behind the line of scrimmage. Note how well the runner bends his hips away from the wrap while shooting the straight-arm and then possesses the stop-start acceleration to beat the second defender meeting him over top with an inside-out juke.

Then this run just gets ugly for the Gamecock defensive coaches sitting in the film room on Monday morning. Gurley stiff-arms one, runs through the wrap of another, and appears to be leaning for what will be a three-yard gain on a certain loss of five.

As L.L. once said, My Rhyme Ain’t Done. 

Gurley maintains his balance thanks to his leg strength, range of motion, and hips to spin past more wraps and dig through traffic for another 5-6 yards. Gurley will have to work hard to regain his flexibility and trust in using his injured knee in this manner, but he’s young and the injury is considered pretty straight-forward in terms of repair and recovery.

Frank Gore, Jamaal Lewis, Willis McGahee, and Adrian Peterson are among the productive power backs with speed who made successful returns from ACL tears. Gurley has this kind of potential.

Considering the comfort of this seat in Scout’s Diner and the iPad service with highlights, I’m willing to wait so I can eat like the Big Dawg.

For analysis of skill players in this year’s draft class, download the 2014 Rookie Scouting Portfolio – available now. Better yet, if you’re a fantasy owner the 56-page Post-Draft Add-on comes with the 2012 – 2014 RSPs at no additional charge. Best, yet, 10 percent of every sale is donated to Darkness to Light to combat sexual abuse. You can purchase past editions of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio for just $9.95 apiece. 

Get the early bird discount by pre-ordering the 2015 RSP now through February 10!

Categories: 2015 NFL Draft, Players, Running BackTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 comments

  1. Lol…this article is ridiculous. With that said, I enjoyed it very much and I’ll have the “St. Louis BBQ isn’t BBQ, Its Tarboro” plate.

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