The expected NFL Draft exodus of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel will leave UGA with two projected holes in the backfield to plug with the 2017 recruiting class. The Bulldogs signed four-star recruit Elijah Holyfield in 2016, but look for coach Kirby Smart and running backs coach Dell McGee to continue to sign two elite backs like Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley and Chubb and Michel every two-to-three seasons.
The best candidates for 2017 appear to be Mississippi standout Cam Akers (a former Alabama commit), Texas speedster Toneil Carter, metro Atlanta workhorse Trey Sermon and Pennsylvania all-purpose back D’Andre Swift. Swift was the only one who made it to G-Day. It was his second trip in less than a month as his interest in UGA appears to be substantial.
“UGA has a great atmosphere, 93k for a spring practice? Who can beat that?” Swift said after his second UGA visit over the last three weeks. “ “Who wouldn’t want to play in that type of atmosphere? You can really tell the people from Georgia support their football team.”
Swift (St. Joseph’s School/ Philadelphia, Pa.) is rated as the nation’s top all-purpose back and No. 33 player overall. How much did the G-Day trip help Georgia’s chances?
“It was definitely a positive experience,” Swift said. “There’s not a recruit there who didn’t enjoy that. You got to see the coaches and holler at the players. It just felt to me like Georgia was a great place to be.”
Can he see himself playing at Georgia?
“Yes, I can,” said Swift, who is aptly named considering his recent 4.41-second hand time in the 40-yard dash.
He showed that wasn’t lip service with his words of appreciation for McGee, UGA’s new running backs coach. He even asked McGee for drills he could do to make himself a better player back home in Pennsylvania.
Swift said UGA, Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State and Penn State are recruiting him the hardest. He didn’t want to place one school’s efforts above another. He does feel he needs to see Clemson again and he wants to make his first trip to Florida State.
His favorite part of G-Day was seeing the big picture come together.
“Just seeing all the fans and how excited they were and seeing everybody play,” Swift said. “It looks like Georgia is going to have a good season with everybody, plus (true freshman quarterback) Jacob Eason. The quarterback really showed out and did great. I didn’t know what was going on when everybody started clapping and then I looked out on the field and saw what was going on. I know that was a big moment for him.”
The 5-foot-10, 210-pounder said the staff put everything on the board for him and made it clear he’d have a chance to play early.
“They made me feel like they needed me,” Swift said. “They spoke about my skill set and how I’d be used. Everything sounds good right now. I just have to weigh all my options and take a couple more visits.”
Swift followed up that statement by saying he wanted to narrow his choices as soon as possible. That came on the heels of releasing a Top 10 list on Friday that included UGA, Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, Miami, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and South Carolina.
He doesn’t have a decision timeline in mind. He said the G-Day visit answered every question he had, but he does plan to return for a game. That will be difficult with his high school schedule. His team often plays on Saturdays so it will be an open date. The Oct. 1 home game against Tennessee meshes well with an open date on his high school schedule.
Swift’s inspiration for playing football and for aspiring to play it at the highest level, runs deep.
“That would be my grandpa,” Swift said. “He died when I was five years old and never got the chance to see me play football. That’s why I work so hard at what I do. For my grandpa. That’s why I play.”
The rising senior said UGA commit Jaden Hunter and Justin Shaffer really made him feel welcome and made sure he knew he was wanted at UGA. Shaffer told him it would be an honor to block for him. Class of 2016 signee Tyler Simmons also established a friendship. Smart made sure that Swift heard from him, too.
“He told me that they are building something special and that he wants me to be a part of it,” Swift said. “He said everybody down there wants me to be a Dawg.”
Swift hasn’t been on many visits or attended many games or even spring games. But he said it was his best college visit so far. Swift also liked the fact that UGA would sign at least two backs this year. He embraces competition and knows a team needs more than one go-to back to help keep everyone healthy. He said the staff also split him out wide in the passing game to wreak havoc on linebackers in coverage.
What will the school that signs Swift be getting?
“I’m a great teammate,” Swift said. “I can really take constructive criticism when I am wrong. I am working on being a great vocal leader right now. I’m just that guy in the locker room to help people and put a smile on their face. I try to be a good person, a good guy to be around and a good friend to everyone.”
Swift said he’s being recruited by Smart and McGee at UGA, but also by offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and special teams and tight ends coach Shane Beamer. He also made a point to note the relationship he’s developing with player personnel coordinator Luke Moore on two separate occasions.
— SWIFT7️⃣ (@DAndreSwift) March 6, 2016
Jeff Sentell covers UGA football and UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges. Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.