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How will Georgia split carries among D'Andre Swift and a group of uber-talented tailbacks?

How many carries will each Georgia running back get this season?

Cy Brown

Welcome to Good Day, UGA, your one-stop shop for Georgia football news and takes. Check us out every weekday morning for everything you need to know about Georgia football, recruiting, basketball and more.

Carry on, Dawgs

Death, taxes and Georgia running the dang ball. Those are three things we can count on in life. And for the last three years, you could also count on Nick Chubb and Sony Michel receiving the bulk of the carries for the Bulldogs. But with those two now in the NFL, it’s the dawn of a new era in the UGA backfield. Which got me wondering, without the most productive tailback duo in college football history at the top of the depth chart, how will the carries be distributed among this new generation of Georgia rushers.

To come with an educated guess, we first have to look at the total carries from Georgia’s backs in the first two seasons under Kirby Smart. (I’m only looking at running back carries, so no carries from quarterbacks, receivers or fullbacks were counted in these totals.) A quick glance at sports-reference shows that the UGA tailbacks toted the rock 470 times in 2016 and 571 times in 2017.

There are a few obvious reasons for the increase in carries last season. The greatest contributor is the simple fact that Georgia played two more games in 2017 than it did in 2016 thanks to trips to the SEC Championship Game and the CFP National Championship Game. On top of that, Georgia was in more blowouts last season than in 2016, and in garbage time teams tend to run the ball. That specifically affects the number of carries for backs lower on the depth chart, as they’re the ones playing in those situations. Another intangible factor is how the offense was run with Jake Fromm at quarterback instead of Jacob Eason, as the Dawgs passed the ball much more with Eason under center than they did with Fromm (370 pass attempts for Eason as a freshman to 291 from Fromm).

Without Chubb and Michel in the backfield, and with Fromm a season more experienced, I expect to see pass attempts increase this season. But garbage time seems likely to stay roughly the same since Georgia has a fairly weak schedule and an appearance in the SEC Championship Game, at least, is likely. With that in mind, I expect the running back carry totals to fall somewhere in between the totals from 2016 and 2017. For simplicity’s sake, let’s average them to a nice round number and assume backs will receiver 520 carries this season.

It’s safe to assume sophomore D’Andre Swift will receive the vast majority of the carries after a stellar freshman campaign in which he had 81 carries. But the question is whether or not he’ll receive as many as Chubb did the last two seasons (224 in 2016, 223 in 2017). Swift is built much differently than Chubb. He’s smaller, so I doubt he’ll receive as many just because it will be difficult to keep him fresh.

The big difference from this year to last is that there’s no clear No. 2 running back. At least not yet. Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien are the most likely candidates to fill that role because of their experience. But we’ve seen freshman running backs storm the gates at UGA plenty of times before, so James Cook or Zamir White could easily slot into that spot. What I think is most likely is that Kirby Smart and Jim Chaney will move away from the one-two punch approach they used with Chubb and Michel and instead use a committee approach.

The wild cards in this whole scenario are the freshmen, and not just the freshmen running backs. White is still recovering from a knee injury suffered his senior year of high school, and his total carries will be dictated by how quickly he can recover and how many games he’s able to play. In addition to that, I expect Justin Fields to see plenty of action on designed runs and read options. It remains to be seen how much Fields’ presence as a ball-carrier will cut into the touches for tailbacks.

So with all that in mind, here’s how I think the carries will be distributed among running backs this season. Let me know your thoughts down in the comments.

PLAYER CARRIES
D’Andre Swift 200
Elijah Holyfield 120
Brian Herrien 90
James Cook 60
Zamir White 50

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‘You’re going to feel him every time he comes up to the line of scrimmage’

I wrote a few days ago about D’Andre Walker’s inclusion on the watch list for the Butkus Award, given to the best linebacker in college football. But I noted in that post that I believe Monty Rice and Natrez Patrick actually stand a better chance to win the award. In truth, I don’t think any of them will win it this season, but I think Rice is the best of the bunch and could stand a strong chance in a season or two. And this story from Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald has done nothing to dissuade me from my belief in a very bright future for Rice. From Weiszer, here’s what Jonathan Ledbetter had to say about Rice:

“He’s not the biggest guy, he’s not the strongest guy but you’re going to feel him every time he comes up to the line of scrimmage,” defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter said. …

“He will hit a lineman that’s 360 pounds straight under his chinstrap as hard as he can,” he said, “and try to knock his socks off.”

List-O-Mania

We’re back with another edition of List-O-Mania. First up is Chris Johnson of Sports Illustrated, who has Georgia No. 1 in his list of non-Alabama College Football Playoff contenders.

The Bulldogs’ trip to the national title game was not an anomaly. Entering the third season of his tenure in Athens, head coach Kirby Smart has the recruiting prowess and sideline acumen to compete at the top of the SEC annually. …

Georgia does not need a rebuilding season; anything short of double-digit wins and an East division championship would be a disappointment, and a return to the national title game feels within reach.

Next up is Steve Lassan of Athlon Sports, who ranked Rile Ridley 26th on his list of the top 30 potential breakout receivers for 2018.

Ridley hopes to parlay his national championship performance (six catches for 82 yards) into a breakout year in 2018. The brother of former Alabama standout Calvin Ridley has caught 26 passes in his first two years of action. With Javon Wims out of eligibility, there’s an opportunity for Riley Ridley and Mecole Hardman to be even more involved in 2018.

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