4 Georgia spring football questions: Running back attack, Heisman for D’Andre Swift?
ATHENS — If there’s one offensive principle Georgia football coach Kirby Smart will not abandon, it’s the ability to dictate the run game.
Regardless of the offensive coordinator, opponent or personnel, Smart will not compromise that element of UGA football.
“We have our core belief that we always have, which is balance, being powerful, being able to run the ball at our will, not somebody else breaking our will,” Smart said last fall. “That’s always going to be the identity we have.”
A star-studded offensive line could pave the way for a run game like no other in the nation this season, depending on how the Bulldogs answer these 4 questions this spring.
Durability of D’Andre Swift
Swift is coming off the first healthy offseason of his career at Georgia, and the results could prove staggering if he proves durable in 2019.
Swift overcame the double hernia surgery that limited him last spring, along with foot and groin injuries suffered during the season, to rush for more than 1,000 yards in 2018.
Swift’s speed and cutback abilities make him a home run threat each time he touches the football. His pass-catching skills are such that 1,500 total yards and 20 touchdowns are within his reach this season.
Those could be Heisman Trophy numbers for Swift if Georgia football runs the table and wins the SEC Championship Game.
A nightmarish rushing performance in the Sugar Bowl loss to Texas — 8 carries, 12 yards, one lost fumble — likely added even more steam to Swift’s preparation for what is very likely his last season in Athens.
Leadership of Brian Herrien
Speaking of the Sugar Bowl, if every Georgia player showed up with the focus and effort Herrien displayed in New Orleans, the result of the game would have been different.
Herrien had four carries for 17 yards and two receptions for 20 yards and a TD against the Longhorns, running through and around defenders.
The 6-foot, 210-pound Herrien was Georgia’s most effective back in short-yardage situations last season, and he’ll work to earn that role as one of the senior leaders on the 2019 squad.
Surprisingly, Herrien’s longest play on 190 career touches is only 30 yards.
Herrien has come a long way since being recruited out of Douglasville as a 3-star prospect ranked 860th in his nation and 80th in Georgia, according to the 247sports composite.
Rehabilitation of Zamir White
With Swift and Elijah Holyfield both rushing for more than 1,000 yards last season, it’s hard to know just how many opportunities a healthy Zamir White would have gotten in 2018.
There’s also the question of how effective the 5-star, No. 1-ranked tailback in the 2018 class would have been as a true freshman adjusting to big-time college football.
White, who has undergone surgeries on both of his knees the past two years, is expected to be cleared for contact by the start of fall drills and in the mix for carries.
If football was played with a weight bench on the 50-yard line, White would be ready now, as his social media accounts reveal him to be a workout wonder.
But as much as White needs to be ready physically, there are also mental hurdles ahead.
White must get back to playing football with reckless abandon, not giving a second thought to sharp cutbacks on his runs, or carrying out whatever special teams assignments Smart deems appropriate.
Role of James Cook
Cook’s talent didn’t match his production in 2018, and it’s hard to know exactly where to place blame.
The explosive freshman from Miami wowed teammates in fall drills, only to fall silent on football Saturdays, former offensive coordinator Jim Chaney unable to exploit Cook’s talents.
Was it Cook’s practice habits? Was it the performances of Swift and Holyfield? Or were there simply not enough footballs to go around for Georgia last season?
Cook had 41 carries for 284 yards and 8 catches for 89 yards, but he did not touch the ball in games with LSU, Kentucky and Auburn.
Cook is coming off a foot injury suffered in the SEC Championship Game and should be 100 percent by next season, where he’s likely to play a more prominent role as a runner or receiver with Coley calling the shots.
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