ATHENS, Ga., — Last year, Georgia was one of four teams with multiple 1,000-yard rushers. But in the past two seasons, Georgia is the only team to accomplish said feat twice.
Across the past two seasons, Georgia has produced four different 1,000-yard rushers. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel did in 2017, while Elijah Holyfield and D’Andre Swift did so in 2018.
Swift returns for his junior season in 2019 with lofty expectations. But throughout fall camp, his availability has been uncertain. Swift was seen in a black non-contact jersey at practice on Wednesday. Swift had offseason surgery on both his groins prior to the start of the 2018 season that slowed the start to his sophomore campaign. The dynamic running back didn’t top 100 yards in a game until the Florida contest, which was Georgia’s eighth game of the season
All of this — along with the fact that Swift had single-digit carries in 5 of his 14 games as a sophomore — means that Georgia will once again be relying on a stable of running backs.
The Bulldogs have four other scholarship backs they can turn to in Brian Herrien, Zamir White, James Cook and Kenny McIntosh. Herrien is expected to take on a much bigger role this season following Holyfield’s departure for the NFL. As a junior, he ran for 295 yards on 50 carries.
As for White, he’s been the most talked-about Georgia player this offseason, given his injury history and status as the No. 1 ranked running back in the 2018 class.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart was asked about balancing everything between his running backs. And he gave a very detailed answer on the mater.
“I want success and I want success for each one of those players. If each one of those backs has success, could you end up where nobody gets 1,000 and three or four guys get close to 1,000,” Smart said. “A defense dictates sometimes what we do offensively because we check to certain things so you can’t control it. It helps [when] you have guys who are kind of the bell cows, but I’m not past playing four backs.”
Under Smart, Georgia’s offenses have always had balanced rushing attacks in terms of carries. The most carries a running back had in a game in either of the last two seasons was 20, as Holyfield hit that number against Florida in 2018 and Chubb did it against South Carolina in 2017.
The Georgia head coach also gave a detailed answer on where things stand with Cook. The sophomore running back played sparingly as a freshman despite being the No. 41 overall player in the 2018 recruiting class. He also happens to be the younger brother of Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook.
James Cook looks noticeably different this fall, as he’s put on some serious muscle. And per Smart, it doesn’t seem like the extra weight he’s carrying has caused him to lose a step.
“Much more consistent with his ability to break tackles and make runs,” Smart said. “First of all, he’s a great player in space. Last year he was just kind of feeling his way through. He didn’t understand motions and shifts and all the different things. Now, he’s much more consistent and he’s had an opportunity to show that. I feel like James has had a really good camp.”
Smart added that the notion of having multiple 1,000-yard rushers helps in recruiting efforts. Swift and White were both 5-star running backs. In Georgia’s 2020 class, the Bulldogs already have a commitment from 5-star running back Kendall Milton and are one of the finalists for the nation’s No. 1 ranked running back in Zachary Evans.
When Milton committed to Georgia, he stated that he was very open to the idea of sharing carries with another elite running back. The Bulldogs will likely employ that strategy this season given the wealth of options and questions about Swift’s durability.
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