The running back position at UGA will forever be a marquee position. A kid from Wrightsville, Ga., made sure of that. Then the names like Garrison Hearst, Knowshon Moreno, Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel keep extending that legacy.
Chubb and Michel are likely projections to the NFL Draft after their junior seasons this fall. So that means the program must re-stock the stable at one of its marquee positions. That process is already well underway with recent visits from Mississippi standout Cam Akers and Spayberry’s Trey Sermon.
UGA also hosted a tremendous four-star talent on Thursday in Texas native Toneil Carter, but another name to keep an eye on for the running-back spot hails from another eye-opening part of the country.
That’s four-star all-purpose back D’Andre Swift out of St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia. We’re not talking about the Philadelphia in Mississippi either The aptly-named standout told SEC Country’s Chris Kirschner that UGA, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, Miami and Ohio State are currently recruiting him the hardest.
Swift’s name should have perked up the ears of UGA fans this week when one recruiting analyst made a shoot-from-the-hip prediction that he will eventually sign with UGA.
There’s some merit to that. Swift is being recruited hard by the school and he has a good acquaintance with UGA commit Jaden Hunter.
What does Swift think about that?
“My interest level in Georgia is the same as every other school,” Swift said. “I don’t listen to people that make predictions. I haven’t’ been anywhere yet and I want to make these trips. I’m just weighing all of my options right now.”
Swift met Hunter at the Under Armour All-American combine approximately two years ago and they struck up a friendship. They’ve kept up with one another since.
How hard has McGee been recruiting him?
“Since they got the new staff, the running backs coach has been in contact with me a lot,” Swift told SEC Country. “I have been on the phone with him a couple of times now and I’ve talked to him on Twitter.”
The rising senior plans to visit UGA this spring or summer, but a date hasn’t been set. He’s planning to commit after his senior season.
Does he have an idea about where he fits on the board?
“They haven’t told me if I’m the No. 1 guy they want yet,” Swift said. “They have been telling me that they want me to visit. They’re really high on my game, though. They’ve called me a dynamic player that can make a difference for them.”
He visited UGA last summer on a circuit tour of several colleges. He saw the facilities and met some of the players.
“It seemed like a really great environment,” Swift said. “I want to go this time to see how the team practices and see the offensive scheme they run. I want to get a better relationship with the staff, too.”
The 5-foot-10, 207-pounder is also interested in Alabama and said he is also good friends with Alabama commit Najee Harris. He’s the nation’s overall No. 1 at running back.
The running back board for coach Dell McGee at UGA likely has Akers and Sermon at the top. Carter, the nation’s No. 90 overall prospect, is also there after his visit and his long-standing affinity for UGA football. He’s slotted as the country’s No. 6 running back. That wedges him between Akers at No. 3 and Sermon at No. 9 among the national rankings.
Maryland four-star Anthony McFarland, Jr. is another name to keep in mind. The nation’s No. 3 all-purpose back ranks No. 50 overall. He’s had a couple of impressive visits to UGA and camped at UGA’s all-star “Dawg Night” last summer. He was tight with the Mark Richt staff and needs another visit like the one that Carter just experienced to be considered a major contender at UGA at this time.
DawgNation projects UGA to take at least two running backs in this cycle, but they’d be hard-pressed to exclude a third like Swift or McFarland that can also bring a change-of-pace on third down or in the return game. Those two athletes could fit nicely into a role similar to the one Kenyan Drake held in the Alabama offense, terrifying defenses when he got the ball in space.
Check out the highlights below for Smith, Carter and McFarland in that order.
Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.
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.