ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart seemed to play off the significance of preseason All-American tailback D’Andre Swift wearing a non-contact jersey in Wednesday’s practice.
“That was just so you all would focus on that and not see the other stuff, it obviously worked,” Smart said. “I’m glad you all got that.”
It was an edgier version of Smart in Wednesday’s press conference, an indication the head coach is likely as ready as anyone for the season to start. The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs open at Vanderbilt at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 31.
It’s early, but one gets the feeling Swift’s health status might become a weekly item of note based on his injury history and the attention to detail he spends on maintaining his health.
The talented junior tailback was late coming out to practice on Aug. 13, creating a bit of an Internet stir following Scrimmage One.
But then Swift was back for the start of drills on Thursday showing no ill-effects in warmups — no braces, not held out of drills, the usual red practice jersey — and all seemed well.
Indeed, Smart said following last Saturday’s scrimmage that Swift was fine.
“D’Andre’s been good, D’Andre’s a leader in that group, he’s very bright,” Smart said.
“And I say Brian (Herrien) is our most experienced (tailback) because Brian has been here longer, Brian doesn’t have as much volume of carry as D’Andre has. But Brian has more practice experience probably more reps, because you’ve gotta remember he went through a whole spring when D’Andre was still in high school. But D’Andre’s been good.”
The Herrien input from Smart was unsolicited, and telling.
Herrien has quietly had a strong fall camp and was first through the running backs line in drills even after Swift returned last week.
Swift started the first four games last season before Elijah Holyfield replaced him in the starting lineup on account of Swift being slowed by nagging injuries.
Swift had sports hernia surgery in January of 2018 and was limited in spring drills and at the start of last season.
“I was trying to save myself, I would say,” Swift said earlier in fall camp, explaining the mindset he brought into the 2018 season. “Not trying to push it too much where I would hurt myself.
“But now I don’t have any limits.”
Swift made it clear he will go to the appropriate lengths to make sure he’s healthy this season, too.
“I do a good job of taking care of my body, I’m always in the training room, I live in the training room, so I’m ready to go and I’m ready to get to work,” Swift said.
“Whatever workload the coaches throw at me, I’m ready for that workload.”
While Smart was elusive when asked about Swift, he did update the health of backup offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer and inside linebacker Nakobe Dean.
Smart said both are expected to return soon from their injuries after missing the first half of Wednesday’s practice.
“They were both out there at practice halfway though, working with the trainers,” Smart said. “They are both dinged up, but I expect a full recovery soon.”
Smart indicated that junior college transfer outside linebacker Jermaine Johnson has not yet been 100 percent coming off an ankle injury.
“I don’t know that Jermaine has been full speed,” Smart said. “In the scrimmage the other day he showed burst, acceleration and some edge situations where he did a really nice job.
“We were pleased with his jump from Scrimmage One to Scrimmage Two … but he needs to continue to improve.”
Georgia football coach Kirby Smart
Georgia football fall camp