ATHENS – What do you say we take a minute today to focus not on the seemingly endless stream of transfers and coaching defections at Georgia and in college football, but rather those who chose to stay.
Like Brian Herrien, for example.
You do remember him, don’t you? It seems like Herrien is a bit of forgotten man when discussions turn to Georgia’s running backs. But the rising senior is indeed still a running back at the place they call RBU, and a pretty darn good one at that.
Not that anybody really stops to recognize that notion. Did you realize that Herrien is poised to go over 1,000 yards rushing for his career next year? It should happen fairly quickly, too. Herrien sits at 923 — or just 77 yards shy — after finishing as Georgia’s third-leading rusher (295 yards, 4 TDs) last season. Herrien’s a pretty decent receiver, too. He had eight catches for 42 yards this past season. You might remember his 18-yard TD catch against Texas in the Sugar Bowl.
And now, with Elijah Holyfield training for the NFL draft, Herrien would have to be considered Georgia’s most physical back. Just ask Texas safety Brandon Jones if Herrien is a physical back. He’ll tell you — if he can remember. He might’ve required some concussion protocol after tackling Herrien for what ended up being an eight-yard gain in the second quarter of the Sugar Bowl.
With all those inside handoffs he tends to get, Herrien still heads into his senior season with a healthy 5.3 yards-per-carry average. Yet Herrien’s name barely garners a mention when people start talking about Georgia’s running back situation heading into 2019.
Mainly it’s D’Andre Swift you hear about, and deservedly so. We’ve all seen what Swift can do. He’s an elite back, the Bulldogs’ leading rusher last year and one of the nation’s most anticipated offensive players for next season. Accordingly, you’ll find his name toward the top of most Heisman Trophy watch lists.
But one of the aspects of Georgia’s offense that made it — and Swift — so effective last season was the contrasting styles of him and Holyfield. That’s why they both were able to top 1,000 yards while sharing the primary load for the SEC’s leading rushing team. Swift would get his yards on the perimeter and catching the ball out of the backfield, while Holyfield would handle lot of the work between tackles. Each did a little of the other, but that was their primary roles.
So who’s going to be Mr. Inside to Swift’s Mr. Outside next year now that Holyfield’s gone?
Again, most people would probably point to the player who will wear Todd Gurley’s old No. 3 jersey for the Bulldogs next season. That’d be Zamir “Zeus” White, the No. 1 recruiting prospect in the country when he signed with Georgia out of North Carolina last year. But, of course, White suffered a season-ending ACL injury covering punts in preseason camp. That was his second such injury in less than a year as White did the same thing to his other knee the previous fall at Scotland High in Laurinburg, N.C.
So while White’s reputation, career highlights and his physique say he’d be the guy for the Bulldogs next season, there’s certainly no guarantee that’ll happen coming off double knee surgeries. And while he’s known as a tough runner, his physical attributes aren’t necessarily distinguishing in that regard.
White is listed at 6-foot, 210-pounds, the exact same measurements as one Brian Herrien.
It’s definitely not going to be James Cook, who is quite generously listed at 5-11, 190 pounds. Maybe it could be Georgia’s latest addition, 4-star running back Kenny McIntosh of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He’s a little bigger, at 6-1, 210 pounds or so, and is said to run even bigger with the football. But generally it takes a minute for a freshman to be the one dolling out the punishment on ball carries in college football.
We’ll see. It definitely should make for a lively and interesting competition in the spring, which I wouldn’t anticipate would include the still-recovering White. But one can be sure it will include Herrien.
Herrien has been a major player in all of Georgia’s spring practices since he showed up from Douglasville late in the summer of 2016. He even earned the Coffee County Hustle award and a game ball after the spring of 2017.
People might say, “ah, that’s just spring ball.” But, actually, Herrien has a lot of experience contributing to the Bulldogs’ cause in a lot of meaningful games at this point in his career. That’s been both as a ball carrier and as special teams player. And you can bet he’s ready for a bigger role.
And he is. I have it on good authority that there was some exploring being done on Herrien’s behalf about that whole transfer thing. There were some people in his corner who felt, at this point, he might do himself well by trying to find some new scenery, maybe hook up at a place where he could be a bigger part of the offense. You know, a fresh start.
Herrien said, “no thanks. I like it where I am.” He wants to stick with Georgia. He loves Georgia, I’m told. He’ll graduate from UGA with a degree in psychology about this time next year, or shortly thereafter. He thinks it’s going to be a big year for the Bulldogs and he thinks he can help make it so.
There are others like Herrien. There are a lot of players on the Bulldogs’ roster who aren’t necessary filling starring roles and beating back lawyers and agents trying to turn them on to bigger, better things. They just simply wake up every day – on time – do what their coaches, counselors and teachers ask of them and try to get a little better every day. And they’re happy doing for board, books and tuition, and maybe a little appreciation from the fan base.
That’s what people are missing about Herrien and a lot of guys like him are missing in these crazy and sometimes mean-spirited times. Everybody has a strong opinion about coaches and players and they’re not afraid to share it on the multiple digital platforms that are available to everybody nowadays. Don’t forget about all those guys doing what they’re supposed to be doing.
So next time you’re swooning over the latest 5-star that Georgia got or didn’t get in recruiting, remember that there’s another two-thirds of the team that is still around busting their tails and doing nothing but what they’ve been told to do while trying to get a little better every day.
Guys like Brian Herrien. Don’t forget about him.