ATHENS — Georgia football junior D’Andre Swift went on an incredible tear during the second half of last season, not-so-coincidentally when he was at his healthiest.
The 5-foot-9, 215-pound speedster from Philadelphia took advantage of a week of rest during the bye week to record his first career 100-yard game at the college level with 12 carries for 104 yards and a TD in a pivotal 36-17 win in Florida against the Gators in Jacksonville.
“The bye week had a major impact for me, Coach (Kirby) Smart let me get healthy that week,” Swift said. “I know when I’m healthy the sky is the limit for me.”
Best RB in the country. pic.twitter.com/Nmm8iw55D6
— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) July 1, 2019
One week later, at Kentucky, Swift delivered another back-breaking performance.
Swift broke loose on an 83-yard TD run to highlight his 16-carry, 157-yard rushing afternoon in a 34-17 win that clinched the East Division against the Wildcats. He also had three catches for 18 yards in Lexington.
The following week, at home against Auburn, Swift broke a 77-yard TD run en route to 186 yards on 17 carries in addition to 43 yards receiving on four catches.
“I was injured the first of the season and couldn’t do what I wanted to do,” said Swift, who underwent double groin surgery in January of 2018. “The second half (of the season), I got back healthy and started to show people what I could do.”
Swift rushed for 447 yards on 45 carries in that three-game stretch of Florida, Kentucky and Auburn. It amounted to an eye-popping average of 9.93 yards per carry against three of the league’s better front seven units.
Swift’s final 100-yard rushing game was against Georgia Tech, when he went for 105 yards on 14 carries in the regular-season finale.
Against Alabama in the SEC title game, Swift had 75 yards on 16 carries in addition to a team-high six catches for 63 yards and another TD.
The Sugar Bowl, however, served notice that Swift is only as good as the game plan and the offensive line execution.
UGA quarterback Jake Fromm said the Bulldogs’ offense was slow to adjust in Jim Chaney’s last game as offensive coordinator, and Swift struggled with Texas getting penetration.
“They showed us what that game plan was in the first couple drives,” Fromm said, “but we just couldn’t make adjustments quick enough to really capitalize on that.”
Looking back at Swift’s pre-Sugar Bowl interview, the Georgia back knew the Bulldogs’ would need to be at their best and anticipated the Longhorns’ game plan.
“They are real solid on he defensive side so we’ll have to bring our ‘A’ Game on offense,” Swift said. “The D-Line slants a lot, they move real well, and their DBs don’t miss many tackles.
“They do send a lot of exotic blitzes … every day in film, we have a cut-up of the blitzes.”
Swift had 5 catches for 30 yards and a TD reception in the 28-21 Sugar Bowl loss.
But he was held in check on the ground, finishing with 8 carries for 12 yards, along with two fumbles.
Kirby Smart credited Texas for making the hits and strips, and made it clear Swift’s struggles were as much on the offensive line.
“A lot of credit to Texas because they were in our backfield several times,” Smart said. “They penetrated and moved quick. And we weren’t able to handle the penetration. And when they’re in your backfield, that’s how they cause fumbles.”
The Georgia offensive line had a very strong spring, however, and big things are expected from a unit that has been nicknamed “The Great Wall.”
Swift, meanwhile, is considered among the Heisman Trophy favorites for 2019.