ATHENS — There was rain and wind at Sanford Stadium Saturday afternoon, but also, thunder and lightning in the Georgia football backfield.
Senior Brian Herrien continued to show he’s more than just a hard-charging battering ram, catching the ball out of the backfield and showing how dangerous he can be in open space on a 13-yard touchdown catch.
“My dad always told me to run behind my pads and don’t let anyone hit your legs, always keep your feet moving,” Herrien said. “I watch a lot of Adrian Peterson, Earl Campbell, Walter Payton, — a lot of the old school running backs that ran behind their pads.”
No doubt, Herrien didn’t just show a burst toward the goal line, he also knocked a veteran NFL caliber safety off his feet with a stiff arm on J.R. Reed en route to the touchdown.
— Georgia Football (@FootballUGA) April 21, 2019
Herrien led the team with 75 total yards and a touchdown, including two crucial third-and-1 conversion runs into an 8-man line.
Had their been an MVP awarded at the spring game, Herrien would have been a strong candidate.
The thunder and lightning analogy is a well-worn cliche for the growing trend of football teams using multiple running backs.
But few teams apply it as well as Georgia has in recent history with Sony Michel and Nick Chubb and D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield last season.
Swift is deserving of the 2019 preseason Heisman hype with his highlight-friendly cutting and spinning abilities and home run speed.
But teams don’t win championships without having a back like Herrien who can pick up the tough yards and solider through bumps and bruises.
The 6-foot, 210-pounder from Douglasville showed in the G-Day Game he’s ready to make the most of his catches and carries.
“Every opportunity I get, I look at it the same,” Herrien said. “It’s my first and last, I do what I can do.”
Georgia coach Kirby Smart didn’t get excited when asked about Herrien’s impressive performance in the G-Day Game.
But that’s only because he knows what Herrien can do and seems to expect that sort of elevated play and performance from No. 35.
“Brian is a good back, and Brian has gotten better,” Smart said. “He’s been here for several springs, (and) one of those spring he carried 20 or 30 times when Nick (Chubb) and Sony (Michel) were coming back as seniors.
“So I’ve seen a lot of body of work from Brian. He has a good skillset caching the ball, he has a good understanding of our offense, and I thought he looked good today.”
In 40 career games Herrien has 174 carries for 923 yards with 7 touchdowns, and 12 catches for 57 yards and a touchdown.
There’s a good chance Herrien will double all of those totals this season, as Georgia will use him in tandem with Swift, James Cook, and eventually Zamir White and incoming freshman back Kenny McIntosh.
It’s potentially a 15-game season, and Smart knows he needs Swift and Herrien to be there in the end when the championships are on the line.
In the meantime, Herrien said he can continue to grow as a leader and a player.
“Just knowing defenses, pre-snap reads, knowing who is is going to fill the holes,” Herrien said. “If the safeties are coming down and the linebacker pushed over, the safety has got to fill it.”
The practice competition will continue when fall practice resumes, too.
“Me and Tyler Clark we go at it every play — every play I get in my lineup, he gets in his lineup, I look at him, he’ll wink at me, I’ll wink at him,” Herrien said. “It was third-and-1(Saturday) and he grabbed me and tried to scoot me down behind the sticks, but I had already gotten the first down.
“They (defense) get us sometimes in practices, and sometimes in scrimmage, but the offense won today.”
Herrien won the spring football session.