ATHENS — Kirby Smart pointed out how Georgia football has a good problem on its hands when it comes to the depth of talent in the running backs room this season.
“The tough thing is the management of it, because every back wants the ball, let’s be honest,” Smart said Tuesday night. “You guys want every guy to get 1,000 yards and 1,000 carries, we don’t have enough balls to go around and do that.
“I’m trying to keep them happy, and y’all keep talking about how many of them are going to have 1,000 yards.”
The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs open at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Vanderbilt, with D’Andre Swift the projected starter and senior Brian Herrien, sophomore James Cook and redshirt freshman Zamir White all expected to get work.
To Smart’s point, there has been speculation about 1,000-yard seasons because his Georgia teams have led the SEC in rushing the past two years and produced two 1,000-yard rushers both seasons.
In 2017, it was Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Last season it was D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield.
Swift is expected to repeat as a 1,000-yard rusher, and Smart said he has no doubt the junior Heisman Trophy candidate will be ready to handle as many carries as needed.
“Should it be that way, that he has to carry the ball 25 times a game to win, I have no doubt that D’Andre Swift can do that,” Smart said. “But it all goes back to is that necessary? You do what you have to do to win.”
Swift has had his injury issues the past two seasons, most notably hernia surgery in January of 2018, but Smart didn’t seem concerned about Saturday’s game. Smart indicated the fact Swift hasn’t had more than 17 carries in a game at UGA has more to do with circumstance.
“Sometimes other guys have good skillsets, sometimes other guys are fresher, sometimes it’s a rotation pattern,” Smart said. “Some of our games haven’t dictated where a guy can get that many carries because some of our games have been lopsided and you don’t get a chance to get guys that many carries.”
Herrien, meanwhile, will have more of an opportunity that he has had in past seasons.
“He runs really hard, gets tough yards, has caught the ball well out of the backfield,” Smart said. “He’s kind of always done that, but he’s never really been in the limelight, and I think this is a great opportunity for him. He’s a guy who has had a really good camp and run the ball tough.
“He’s just been waiting on his opportunity, and his opportunity is now.”
Cook, White and possible freshman Kenny McIntosh might also have opportunities to shine out of the backfield.
All three are candidates to contribute on special teams, which Smart said is another added benefit of a deep running backs room, along with providing good looks to the defense.
“The biggest benefit is our practices, because everybody is going against a good back at all times,” Smart said. “If you’ve got five or six good backs, and you send a couple of them down to defense for periods, your defensive players get to thud and play on good backs.
“Plus, your special teams take a huge jump because you’ve got good football players playing on those. So, there’s a lot of advantages.”
Cornerback Eric Stokes agree, sharing the attributes of three of the backs in the Bulldogs’ RB stable.
“I know Cook, he left me a couple of times on the sideline where I lost leverage and he shot past me; Cook is fast, real fast,” Stokes said Tuesday night. “With Zamir, he’s a real aggressive runner, and I have to come up in the hole and meet him. I have to be a grown-man right here.
“I never know what Brian is trying to do. I never know if he’s trying to run through me or if he’s gonna give me a lot of shake and give me moves. Brian is the real deal. He’s hard to defend.”
Georgia coach Kirby Smart