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Insider

Gurley's debut among best under Richt

9/2/2012

ATHENS, Ga. -- If Saturday was Todd Gurley’s Herschel Walker moment, Witney Sherry was Gurley’s Bill Bates.

Walker famously burst onto the college football scene in 1980 when he flattened Tennessee’s Bates on the way to the end zone, sparking Georgia’s comeback win against the Volunteers. Three decades later, Gurley tossed Sherry aside like a ragdoll on both of his touchdown runs as he constructed one of Georgia’s all-time most impressive debuts by a true freshman in Saturday’s 45-23 win against Buffalo.

“I didn’t really think about, ‘Yeah I’m going to score,’ or ‘Yeah I’m going to do this,’ my goal was really to come into the game and play my best without the ball, because if I get the ball, then that’s just going to come natural,” said Gurley, who rushed eight times for 100 yards and two touchdowns and returned his first college kickoff 100 yards for another score.

It certainly seemed to come naturally on Saturday, as Gurley added his name to the list of memorable debuts by a Bulldogs player under Coach Mark Richt. Here are 10 more worth remembering:

1. Danny Ware vs. Georgia Southern, 2004

Ware became Georgia’s first freshman running back to start his first game since 1943 and promptly showed why against Georgia Southern, rushing 18 times for 135 yards and three touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ 48-28 win.

2. David Greene vs. Arkansas State, 2001

The redshirt freshman quarterback completed his first 11 passes, led a 99-yard drive and finished 21-for-29 for 285 yards and two touchdowns as the Bulldogs opened the Richt era with a victory against Arkansas State.

3. Jarvis Jones vs. Boise State, 2011

Most Georgia fans would probably like to forget the Bulldogs’ season-opening loss to Boise State last year, but USC transfer Jones was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise upsetting evening at the Georgia Dome. He opened an All-America campaign by flying around the field and finishing with 11 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and one quarterback pressure.

4. Knowshon Moreno vs. Oklahoma State, 2007

Moreno generated a great deal of buzz in practices while redshirting in 2006 and showed off his energetic running style from the get-go in a 35-14 season-opening win. Moreno finished with 121 yards of total offense -- 70 rushing and 51 receiving -- as the Bulldogs opened one of the best seasons of the Richt era in style.

5. Aaron Murray vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, 2010

The 2010 season was the worst of Richt’s 11 thus far, but Murray impressed most everyone with a strong redshirt freshman season. He was outstanding in the blowout win against Louisiana-Lafayette, going 17-for-26 with three touchdowns and an interception and rushing 16 yards for a touchdown at the halftime buzzer to put Georgia up 31-7.

6. Dannell Ellerbe vs. Boise State, 2005

Georgia’s blowout win against Boise State is largely remembered as D.J. Shockley’s breakout game as the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback, but the defense also got the season off on the right note by embarrassing the Broncos. Redshirt freshman linebacker Ellerbe played a role in Georgia’s early outburst by deftly dropping back in coverage and picking off a first-quarter pass. He finished his first game with four tackles, an interception and a tackle for a loss in a 48-13 win.

7. Matthew Stafford vs. Western Kentucky, 2006

One of the biggest recruits of the Richt era, Stafford electrified the Sanford Stadium masses when he took the field late in a 48-12 win against Western Kentucky. His numbers were modest -- he went 3-for-5 for 40 yards and completed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Coleman Watson -- but an injury to Joe Tereshinski III the following week against South Carolina pushed Stafford into the lineup, and he went on to become one of the top quarterbacks in school history.

8. Caleb King vs. Georgia Southern, 2008

King’s production never matched his recruiting hype, but the redshirt freshman opened his college career in fine fashion with 95 rushing yards on 12 carries against Georgia Southern. He backed up Moreno throughout that season and shared time with Washaun Ealey for most of 2009 and 2010 before being declared academically ineligible before the 2011 season and entering the NFL.

9. Hutson Mason vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, 2010

Mason’s debut was mostly memorable because of one play. In his very first college snap, Mason joined an exclusive club by hitting Logan Gray for a 26-yard touchdown in the third quarter of Georgia’s blowout win. Mason finished his debut outing 2-for-5 for 33 yards and a touchdown.

10. Jakar Hamilton vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, 2010

Like King, Hamilton never lived up to his billing from the recruiting trail, playing one season with the Bulldogs after joining the team as one of the nation’s most sought-after junior college prospects. But in his first game, he intercepted a pass and returned it 17 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown and also had a pass breakup and a quarterback pressure. Hamilton is now playing for South Carolina State.