From being the leading Heisman candidate and THE most important piece on offense for Georgia this season, Todd Gurley finds himself suspended for an alleged violation of NCAA rules, which in this case happens to be signing memorabilia and getting paid for it.
Maybe at the end of the day this will just blow over, and Gurley returns back to the field without too much time spent waiting for judgement to be passes. Johnny Manziel didn’t really get hurt from his autograph “scandal” a year ago, so maybe this Gurley incident will simply blow over without it hurting Georgia too much. But for now, a running back averaging 154.6 rushing yards per game and the main reason the Bulldogs are 4-1 at the moment.
Now they’re going to have to do without him as they play a very big game for the fate in the SEC East, facing a 4-1 Missouri team that is still undefeated in SEC play. Georgia already have one loss (to South Carolina), which means it’s pretty close to a must-win for them considering that one more loss in the division could cost them a chance of winning it, while the Tigers, right now the number 23 team in the country (Georgia are number 13), will put themselves in an excellent position to reach the conference champions game for a second straight season.
The investigation is focusing on whether or not Gurley was given money for autographs, memorabilia and the use of his likeness. There hasn’t been something from the Georgia officials to describe what the exact offense was. A source in the autograph industry told ESPN that Gurley was seeking in between $8 and $25 per signature, charging less to an autograph dealer if he signed more pieces. According to a noted autograph authentication company James Spence Authentication, there are at least 500 authenticated Gurley signed items with certificates of authenticity – Jerseys, mini-helmets, photographs and even baseballs and Nike cleats.
So who steps up for Gurley in his absence? Maybe Georgia run more plays through quarterback Huston Mason, the senior who has yet to throw for over 191 yards this season and has been intercepted three times over the last couple of games against Tennessee and Vanderbilt. There’s also the more likely chance of simply giving other running backs the chance to fill in the numbers and yards, but it’s hard to see where that comes from.
Gurley has run more than all other four running backs combined. The most productive of them has been the freshman, Nick Cubb, who has gained 224 yards on 31 carries so far. Sony Michel, another freshman has 223 yards on 22 carries, which means the two of them will likely split the carries left to pick up by Gurley. Maybe he’ll be back right after the investigation is over, yielding nothing, but there’s a chance Georgia could miss out on their best player for more than just a short while.