ATHENS – Georgia has two great senior tailbacks. It has a freshman who looks like he might be great, too, and two sophomores who look promising. And it has a commitment from a 5-star tailback recruit. And it’s trying to secure yet another one.
So, how do Georgia coaches convince running backs to keep coming when good ones are already there?
“You just turn on the tape of the last game,” coach Kirby Smart answered. “And say, ‘Do you want to be one of those guys? Or do you want to be one of the guys that’s pass [protecting] for everybody else in the country?’ They’re throwing there.”
A bit direct, almost brash. But also correct.
Georgia has run the ball 292 times this season, tied for the most of any Power 5 program. (Oregon is the other.) As college football becomes more spread-oriented and pass-heavy, Smart is telling recruits that there’s still somewhere to go and carry the ball the traditional way.
“And they say, ‘I want to be one of those guys’ and carry the ball,” Smart said of recruits.
Then he turned to reporters: “I don’t know, how much did we carry it [last game]? Thirty?”
More than 50 times, actually.
“Fifty?” Smart said. “Good gosh. That’s a lot of carries. So that helps [with recruits].”
Nick Chubb is the SEC’s leading rusher through six games, with 618 yards, and Sony Michel is 10th with 406 yards. They’re both seniors, but once they leave it doesn’t look like the drop-off will be steep.
D’Andre Swift has 264 rushing yards as a freshman and is fourth in the SEC with an average carry of 7.3 yards. Sophomores Brian Herrien (125 yards and a touchdown) and Elijah Holyfield (130 rushing yards and a touchdown) have to be the best fourth- and fifth-string tailbacks in the country.
There’s more on the way: Zamir White, a 5-star recruit from Laurinburg, N.C., committed over the summer. White wasn’t deterred by the presence of Swift, Herrien and Holyfield. And Georgia is in the hunt for James Cook, a 4-star prospect from Miami.
This embarrassment of tailback riches isn’t that new: When Michel and Chubb arrived, the team had then-juniors Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.
“That’s just Georgia,” Michel said. “We have a lot of running backs. We’re always going to have great running backs. We’re going to recruit great running backs, and I think we’re going to keep that going.”