Curtis Compton/AJC
Elijah Holyfield (13) and Brian Herrien (35, at left) will be competing for carries behind presumed starting tailback D'Andre Swift.

Where does Elijah Holyfield fit in Georgia backfield in 2018?

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Can you see a scenario where Elijah Holyfield gets a big chunk of the carries next year? I ask because he’s bigger, north-south runner, and is hungry. I don’t know if Swift can hold up if he gets 20 plus touches a game.
– Cdso4ever

Hey, I have a question for you guys. Do you think that Zamir White and D’Andre Swift will be Georgia’s one-two punch this season? Or do you think that one of the upperclassmen will instead step into the role along Swift?
– Jacob Cox

These two questions are related enough that we should take them together. It also allows me to expand on an answer I gave to Brandon Adams on the podcast Thursday. You might be getting my answer for the first time if you didn’t hear the podcast, which is ridiculous because you should be listening. Or you might have just skipped past my time on it, which is perfectly understandable. But anyway …

I fully expect De’Andre Swift to be the No. 1 back, and I don’t see any reason he can’t carry it 20 or more times a game if necessary. The reason we didn’t see him do that as a freshman is he didn’t need to, because of those two guys who are now at the NFL combine lifting the equivalent of Subaru hatchbacks. Yes, Swift is a speed-oriented runner, pun somewhat intended, but speed tailbacks can be volume runners, too. Sony Michel is a speed runner, and when Georgia didn’t have much else in 2015 (after the Nick Chubb injury) Michel regularly carried it 20 or more times per game. His career high was 26, which he did twice.

But ideally, Georgia doesn’t need Swift to carry it that many times. Which is what brings us to Holyfield. And the other guys.

Georgia would be better off if someone besides Swift emerges as a consistent threat, and two others would be even better. We saw that last season. It made Georgia’s offense that much better as drives and games went along. It takes pressure off the passing game.

Right now it’s hard to see Georgia being as great at tailback as it was in 2017. Swift could be really, really good, but does the rest of the group include players who make this a two- or three-headed monster? My guess is not yet. But I wouldn’t rule it out.

Brian Herrien has more experience, but Holyfield’s cause may be helped by being a more physical, between-the-tackles runner. That would make Holyfield a more likely change of pace from Swift.

White, of course, is working his way back from an ACL injury. I get that everyone’s optimistic about his return, but he was hurt fairly late in his senior high school season – around the same time as Todd Gurley in his junior season at Georgia, and Gurley didn’t play until a few weeks into his rookie season with the Rams.

James Cook, on the other hand, should be ready to go, and he will be a factor. Dell McGee, when I spoke to him in December, put Cook more in the mold of Herrien and Swift, while White is more along the lines of Holyfield.

“Zamir is a big back. … James is a little smaller but he’s very, very good on the edge and the perimeter,” McGee said. “He has a different skill set. So it’s up to us as coaches to find the right ways to utilize everyone’s skill set. And with time and the right weight program, James will develop physically.”

Bottom line: Georgia’s backfield is going to look different in 2018, and probably will have a different formula. Whereas last season the carries and big runs could be spread among three stars, this season it will begin as a more top-heavy unit, meaning Swift and other contenders. But there’s enough talent there that it may not finish that way.

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