Guarding against Gurshall

CUTigers is taking a look at the five biggest challenges the Clemson defense will face in 2014. Up first is Gurshall.

The one-two punch of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall made one heck of a splash when they arrived on the scene in 2012.

Gurley stole the show during their freshman year, accumulating 222 carries for 1,385 yards with 17 touchdowns. Marshall wasn't too shabby either with his 117 runs for 759 yards and eight scores.

The former Clemson recruiting targets struggled as sophomores. Gurley, who was noticeably heavier, dealt with a few injuries as he accumulated 989 yards and 10 touchdowns over 10 games. Marshall's season was ended with a knee injury against Tennessee. He had just 56 carries for 246 yards and a touchdown in five appearances.


Gurley provides the thunder in this one-two combination.
Both are looking to bounce back in 2014, which will likely their last season in the college game.

Marshall, who tore his ACL, was limited during spring practice, but Mark Richt expects him to be ready to roll for summer workouts, which begin next month.

Paired up with a rejuvenated and completely healthy Gurley, the thunder and lightning combo will be among the best, if not the best, running back tandems in the country. Gurley ate up Clemson last season with 12 carries for 154 yards and two touchdowns. Marshall rushed 14 times for 43 yards and a touchdown.

Even though starting quarterback Hutson Mason got plenty of significant snaps last season when Aaron Murray went down with an injury, he'll be making his first start in a season opener. Plus, Mason will still be getting familiar with his top targets in the passing game.

Wide receivers Malcolm Mitchall and Justin Scott-Wesley also tore their ACLs last season, so both were limited during the spring. But they're expected to be full participants by the time workouts begin next month. Tight end Jay Rome, another limited spring worker, should be back by June, too.

Given the lack of continuity in the passing game, combined with the success Gurshall had in Death Valley last season, it's probably safe to assume that Georgia will do its best to establish the run between the hedges in Athens.

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