NEW ORLEANS — Georgia running back Elijah Holyfield acknowledged Sunday that he has asked the NFL for an underclassman evaluation. But like several of his teammates, he has yet to make a decision about whether he would return for his senior season with the Bulldogs next year.
“I think that’s protocol,” Holyfield said during Georgia’s Sugar Bowl press conference Sunday morning at the Downtown Marriott Convention Center. “I think every junior, if they ask, you just put it in.”
But Holyfield said he hasn’t yet considered any of feedback he may have already received and insists that’s not on his mind at the moment. The No. 5 Bulldogs (11-2) take on No. 15 Texas (9-4) in the Allstate Sugar Bowl Tuesday night at 8:45 ET (TV: ESPN; Radio: WSB 750-AM & 95.5-FM).
“I haven’t really given it much thought,” Holyfield said. “I’m trying to wait until after the season, you know, after the game. I think it’s unfair to my teammates to be thinking about myself when I should be worried about the team.”
It’s that attitude that has made Holyfield a leader in the Bulldogs’ locker room and a favorite among Georgia fans. After spending his first two seasons buried on the depth chart and getting only sporadic work as a backup, Holyfield has emerged as a mainstay in Georgia’s backfield rotation and enters the Sugar Bowl as the team’s second-leading rusher with 956 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Holyfield has started x games and splits carries with star running back D’Andre Swift almost down the middle. Their contrasting styles have helped produce the SEC’s leading rushing attack (251.6 ypg) and provided a baseline for an offense that’s scoring 39.2 points per game and averaging 478.8 yards per outing.
“We just give the defense different styles of running,” Holyfield said of the combo of him and Swift. “The defense can’t just sit back and say, ‘OK, we can stop this.’ When he comes in you have to stop something different. When I come back, it’s something different than that. I think it just keeps the defense on its toes.”
Holyfield doesn’t necessarily project as a great pro at the moment. But the 5-foot-11, 215-pound junior is well down the road academically at UGA and health and durability as a running back is highly valued on the next level. There may be no time better than the present in that regard.
Meanwhile, Georgia’s backfield will get only more crowded next season. In addition to the return of the sophomore Swift, injured freshman Zamir White will join the competition next season, along with freshman James Cook, rising senior Brian Herrien and signee Kenny McIntosh. Carries could be hard to come by again next year.
Other Georgia juniors currently contemplating making an early leap to the NFL include flanker Mecole Hardman, tight end Isaac Nauta and receiver Riley Ridley. All of them say a decision won’t come until after Tuesday’s game. The underclassman declaration deadline for the 2019 NFL draft is Jan. 14.