WATCH: Kirby Smart plans heavy usage of Heisman Trophy candidate D’Andre Swift
ATHENS — Georgia tailback D’Andre Swift led the team with 195 touches last season, even while receiving daily treatment after groin surgery and fighting through foot and groin injuries.
And the workload is going to go up — potentially, way up, in a Saquon Barkley kind of way.
Swift said before the Sugar Bowl he does have interest in winning the Heisman Trophy, and it sounds like Coach Kirby Smart is going to give him the opportunity to do just that.
“I think the biggest thing, besides his health, is just the touches,” Smart said in an exclusive interview with WSB for the Bulldogs Game Day Show. “He’s been sharing touches, sharing touches, and he’s really a talented player.
“We’ve got to find a way to get him more touches and he’s got to be able to handle the volume, and a lot of that comes with a good offseason, which he has had so far.”
All Smart needed to do last season was give Swift a break from the daily rigors of practice during the bye week following the LSU loss.
Swift responded with three consecutive 100-yard performances that led to Georgia playing its best football of the season in early November.
Swift had 12 carries for 104 yards and a TD against Florida and two catches for 13 yards before boarding the airplane for the flight back from Jacksonville.
Against Kentucky, Swift had 16 carries for 156 yards and 2 TDs and three catches for 18 yards at Kroger Field.
Swift was as explosive as ever against Auburn, too, with 17 carries for 186 yards and a TD in addition to four catches for 43 yards before the Sanford Stadium crowd.
Smart surely knows that 2019 will likely be Swift’s final season with the Bulldogs.
Swift has been transparent about his intentions to turn pro after this season provided he’s healthy.
But Smart also knows it’s a long season, and neither Heisman Trophies nor championships are won in September.
UGA will monitor Swift’s health closely and work to keep him fresh for the stretch run.
Senior Brian Herrien has looked plenty capable in spring drills, and there’s a chance Zamir White could be ready to contribute running between the tackles.
James Cook, like Swift, is versatile enough to run or catch the ball and has the look of a third down specialist or potential slot receiver.
Swift rolled into the 2018 season coming off double hernia surgery, forcing him to be extremely limited in spring drills last year.
Still Swift was more productive than any player on the team, in terms of the volume of touches:
• DeAndre Swift 195 touches (163 carries, 32 catches)
• Elijah Holyfield 164 touches (159 carries, 5 catches)
• Mecole Hardman 69 touches (34 catches, 16 punt returns, 14 kick returns, 5 carries)
• Brian Herrien 62 touches (50 carries, 8 catches, 4 kick returns)
• James Cook 50 touches (41 carries, 8 catches, 1 kick return)
• Riley Ridley 44 touches (44 receptions)
• Justin Fields 42 touches (42 carries)
The guess here is Georgia will increase its tempo on offense and run more plays than a season ago.
Barkley’s 2017 season at Penn State looks doable for Swift.
Barkley had 286 touches that year — 217 carries, 54 catches and 15 kick returns, scoring 23 touchdowns.
Those would be good numbers for a healthy Swift to aim for this season.
Clemson’s Travis Etienne and Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor were the top two running back vote-getters in last season’s Heisman Trophy race, finishing seventh and ninth, respectively.
Etienne had 216 touches (204 carries, 12 catches), while Taylor had 315 touches (307 carries, 8 receptions).
Stanford’s Bryce Love was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2017 with 269 touches (263 carries, 6 catches).
Swift, with his pass-catching skills, figures to factor more heavily into the Georgia pass game this season.
— Bulldogs Game Day (@WSBbulldogs) March 29, 2019