Position Plus/Minus: A detailed look at Georgia football 2020 running backs
Every Tuesday, we’re going to take a deep dive on every Georgia position in the run-up to the 2020 season. Georgia figures to have one of the most talented teams in the country and the Bulldogs have a number of talented players across the board. But there are still some questions that have to be answered if the Bulldogs are to achieve their end goals.
This week we take a look at the running back position.
PLUS: Five healthy bodies
In each of the last two offseasons, the Georgia running backs have been battling injuries. From D’Andre Swift’s groin surgeries to Zamir White recovering from two knee injuries, the Bulldogs haven’t been fully healthy at the running back position during the offseason.
That isn’t the case this year, as White didn’t have to focus on rehabbing either surgically repaired knee this offseason, while the likes of James Cook, Kenny McIntosh, Kendall Milton and Daijun Edwards have all, to our knowledge, been able to stay healthy.
Unfortunately, none of those players were able to go through spring practice but each of the five should be ready as Georgia begins to gear up for the coming season starting in July. Injuries are going to mount during the season — just look at Georgia’s wide receiver room last year — but starting the season healthy would be a big help to a Georgia offense that is looking to have an improved season.
MINUS: Not having D’Andre Swift
Even as the Georgia offense floundered last season, Swift still found ways to be productive and move the ball for the Georgia offense. He led the Bulldogs with 1,218 rushing yards a season ago and that’s despite being extremely limited in the final two games of the season with a shoulder injury.
There’s a good reason that despite durability concerns Swift was still the second running back taken in the 2020 NFL Draft, going to the Detroit Lions with the No. 35 overall pick.
Swift also excelled as a pass-catcher coming out of the backfield, as he caught 24 passes for Georgia in 2019. The running backs on Georgia’s 2020 roster combined for only 19 catches last season.
Given all Swift was able to do last season for the Georgia offense, this group won’t be able to replace his production and leadership with just one guy. It’s going to take a group effort to replace all that Swift brought to the Georgia offense.
PLUS: Different body types
What are you looking for at the running back position? A bruiser who can just run over opposing defenders? What about a player whose speed and versatility might allow him to line up in the slot position? Or a jack of all trades player, who might not do anything great but does everything well?
While Georgia doesn’t a superstar in the group, it does have a group of players who all complement each other with various skill sets. White figures to be a Nick Chubb-type back, that wears down opposing defenses and gets stronger as the game goes on.
Cook figures to be the player most capable of replacing Swift’s production in the passing game. McIntosh might not be the athlete that some of the other players are, but in a small sample size in 2019 he showed he’s capable of doing just about anything.
Then there are the two incoming freshmen in Milton and Edwards. Milton impressed in offseason workouts and figures to represent a power back for Georgia at first, while Edwards figures to be a Cook understudy.
The Bulldogs don’t likely have one running back who can do it all this season, but there’s enough talent in the room for the group to still put together one of the best rushing attacks in the SEC.
MINUS: Lack of proven commodities
The last time Georgia’s leading returning rusher had fewer than 500 yards in the season prior was all the way back in 2012. That season proved to be a good one for the Bulldogs, as they saw the emergence of freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.
But don’t expect something similar to Gurschall in this coming season. Gurley was a transcendent talent and Marshall was a 5-star recruit coming out of high school. That Georgia team also had Aaron Murray as the starting quarterback, while the Bulldogs will be breaking in a newcomer and a whole new offense now that Todd Monken is the offensive coordinator.
The running backs will also be playing behind a new group of offensive linemen, as the Bulldogs must replace Andrew Thomas, Isaiah Wilson and Solomon Kindley. While there is still some talent on the offensive line, the lack of spring practices likely hurts them from a cohesion standpoint, making things all the more difficult for the running backs.
PLUS: Zamir White hype
Even since he committed to Georgia in June of 2017, Georgia fans have been excited to see what White will do for Georgia. He was the No. 1 running back in the 2018 cycle, with the likes of Urban Meyer saying he’s one of the best running backs he’s seen in five or six recruiting cycles.
White is now finally healthy after two separate ACL injuries slowed the start of his career. He got his first taste of being the lead running back for Georgia in the Sugar Bowl an did well. He ran for 92 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries against Baylor. And that was a game were Georgia was missing its starting offensive tackles to go along with Ben Cleveland.
Georgia has turned out great running back after great running back over the past decade. From Gurley to Swift, if you’ve been the lead running back at Georgia, odds are you’re one of the best in the country.
White figures to definitely be the former this year for Georgia and he’s got the possibility to follow through on the latter if he looks like the running back he did in high school.
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