From time to time, our SEC reporters will give their takes on a burning question facing the league. They will both have strong opinions, but not necessarily the same view. We will let you decide which reporter is right.
Four weeks into the season, we're still trying to figure out who is the best player in the SEC. Is it the rumbling tank of a running back or the hotshot receiver who is making everyone on defense look silly with his moves, speed and intelligence?
Take 1: Alex Scarborough
We’re talking apples and oranges, people. Unlike running backs, most receivers are dependent on the quarterback, after all.
But Cooper isn’t most receivers.
Cooper may not be as physically impressive as Gurley. He may not run with the same ferocity. But Cooper is every bit the star. If I were starting a football team from scratch, I would take the junior receiver No. 1 overall.
I don’t care that he’s not 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds. There simply isn’t a player in college football who takes over the game quite like him. Even at 6-1 and 210 pounds, he is unguardable. Using NFL-level footwork and an uncanny ability to read coverage, he can outsmart even the best DBs. Just ask Vernon Hargreaves III, a potential All-American and future high-round draft pick.
Cooper’s numbers this season are startling. He leads the country in receptions (43) and receiving yards (655) and is tied for third in receiving touchdowns (5). He’s on track for 150 catches, 2,292 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns, based on a 14-game season. That’s just silly.
And he’s doing all that with a quarterback who played receiver and running back early in his career. Don't tell me he's not making Blake Sims look good. With a ridiculous 320 yards after the catch, Cooper is doing much of the work himself.
If team success matters, you have to take Cooper over Gurley.
Cooper’s Crimson Tide are undefeated and well on their way to a berth in the College Football Playoff. Meanwhile, Gurley’s Bulldogs have one loss and need to work their way back into the playoff picture.
If Georgia’s offensive coordinator had simply given Gurley the ball more against South Carolina, that argument may not exist. But it’s a reality nonetheless.
Lane Kiffin won't make the same mistake at Alabama. He'll give Cooper the ball again and again and again until someone proves they can stop him. So far this season, no one has shown they can.
Take 2: Edward Aschoff
I'd just like to state for the record that I think Cooper has been amazing this season (#shamelessplug). I respect his game like no other when it comes to the receiver position.
But while he has been stellar and no other receiver should even be in the same conversation with him, without someone throwing him the ball, he's just another athlete standing on the field. With Gurley, you don't have to worry about that because all he needs is someone handing him the rock and getting out of his way.
Just get out of his way, man, and let him do his thang!
Like, you aren't hearing me. I said get out of his way!
See, Alex, when you use visual aids, it helps your argument.
Gurley is a machine who can create his own running lanes even if things are clogged in front of him. All he has to do is touch the ball and a play is more than likely going to be made. He doesn't need the assistance of someone else chucking it to him. If Georgia wanted to, it could line him up in the Wildcat all day and Gurley would just feast on opposing defenses even more. There's a reason everyone bashed Georgia's coaching staff for not giving him the rock on first-and-goal late against South Carolina. There's a reason coach Mark Richt regretted that decision after the Dawgs eventually lost that game.
In Gurley you should always trust when you need something magical to happen. How about you Google that nifty 17-yard cutback he had for a first down against South Carolina. Yeah, that's improv, sir. I don't see receivers having a lot of luck with stuff like that.
Through Gurley's first two games of the season, he was the only Power 5 player to have at least 100 yards after contact in both games, averaging 102 YAC against Clemson and South Carolina. Since the start of the 2012 season, Gurley has 95 rushes that have gained 10 yards or more and has 13 such runs this season.
Remember, he's played in only three games this year yet is third in the SEC with 402 rushing yards (134 yards per game), has four touchdowns and is averaging a league-high 9.8 yards per carry. On 428 career carries, he has just 50 yards for loss on runs and has just 2 yards for loss this season -- which came in Week 1 against Clemson.
This is the agile yet destructive player you want to start your team with. Gurley can pummel any defender foolish enough to get in his way, or he can glide and sprint past him. But honestly, Gurley likes the contact. It fuels him and makes him run harder.
My guy is thirsty for contact and is more independent with his majestic yet pernicious running style.