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D’Andre Swift off to a strong start to the 2019 season for Georgia football
ATHENS — Mark Webb is proud of the football leagues played in and around the city of Philadelphia. While the area does not have the same amount of talent as say the metro Atlanta area, it is highly competitive and has produced the likes of Marvin Harrison, Matt Ryan, Steve Slaton and Will Fuller.
Webb is also among the greats to come out of the Philadelphia area, as he played his high school football for Archbishiop Wood High School. The junior defensive back was clearly a talented player, as he’s now a starter on the Georgia defense.
But there was one player from the area who shined brighter than Webb did during his high school years. It was his cousin, D’Andre Swift.
As a high school senior, Swift ran for 1,564 yards and 25 touchdowns on just 149 carries at Saint Joseph’s Preparatory School. That’s a touchdown roughly every 6 carries.
“He was pretty good. If we had a best player, he was the best in the league,” Webb said of Swift.
By now, just about every Georgia fan knows what Swift is capable of. After flashing as a freshman, he was Georgia’s leading rusher a season ago, finishing the year with 1,049 rushing yards. He was named Second-Team All-SEC for his performance.
But the final numbers and accolades don’t paint an accurate picture of what Swift went through as a sophomore. He was significantly slowed by offseason groin surgery to begin the 2018 season. Swift didn’t top 100 yards rushing in a game through the first 7 games of the season. Then he proceeded to do it in 4 of Georgia’s next 5 games.
Related: SEC Network analyst predicts Georgia running back D’Andre Swift to win 2019 Heisman Trophy
As a junior, Swift now has his sights set higher. Fully healthy, or at least as healthy as a starting running back can be, Swift doesn’t want to just be known as one of the top running backs in the SEC.
“It’s just crazy how his work ethic has compounded,” Webb said. “The work he was doing in high school compared to now, he’s trying to be the best running back in college football. It’s crazy to see the work he puts in. He’s doing sit-ups in his room, and we definitely wasn’t doing that back then.”
Swift got off to a much faster start to his junior season, as he racked up 147 yards against Vanderbilt on only 16 carries. He then added another 67 yards and 2 touchdowns in the win over Murray State.
Though it is through just two games, Swift has shown he’s one of the most explosive players in the country. Of players with at least 20-plus carries, only Appalachian State’s Darryton Evans has a higher yards per carry average than Swift’s 9.73. Of Swift’s 22 rushing attempts so far, 9 have gone for at least 10-plus yards so far. That’s tied for 5th in the country, and every player ahead of him has more carries.
Given Georgia prefers a balanced workload under Kirby Smart — only once in 2018 did a Georgia running back finish a game with 20 carries and it wasn’t Swift — the junior running back isn’t likely to see a Herschel Walker level of touches. But Swift pretty clearly makes the most out of his touches.
“He’s done well. He’s put up good numbers, right, He didn’t really, have much of a rotation this past weekend,” Smart said. “We got up, and once we got up, we weren’t going to sit there and let him carry it the whole game, so it was a tale of two games. One game he needed to carry it more, and one game he didn’t.”
Related: Kirby Smart details how D’Andre Swift has ‘set himself apart’ this spring
There’s been another change of sorts with Swift this season, as he’s taken on a more vocal role on the team.
Georgia has had a long tradition of great running backs. When Swift was a freshman, the team was defined by the play and leadership styles of Sony Michel and Nick Chubb. And now in a similar position as those two Georgia greats, he’s trying to pass it on the next group of Bulldogs.
“D’Andre relishes that role,” Smart said. “I think he understands that he’s one of the inspirational players on the team; he inspires others to do more by the way he competes on the field, the way he runs the ball, the energy he attacks practice with. He tries to set a good example for the young players. ”
Smart highlighted how in the Murray State game Swift went up and spoke with freshman wide receiver George Pickens after a “bonehead” unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. At the time in the game, the Georgia win was already well in hand, but that wasn’t enough for Swift.
“He knows George is going to be a good player so here’s an opportunity for him to impart some of his wisdom and knowledge on George, and I think Swift does that really well,” Smart said.
Swift also seems to be at his happiest when gets to talk up some of the younger running backs in Georgia’s talented group. No player has been happier for Zamir White’s success than Swift. After White scored his first career touchdown, Swift came up to him and told the redshirt freshman it was going to be the first of many.
Related: Cover 4 on Georgia football: What kind of year will D’Andre Swift have this fall?
While some skill position players want to see more and more touches, Swift is very content to share the ball and thus spotlight. When he speaks publicly, he’s much more like to discuss what the team does well as opposed to himself.
“I’m happy to see everybody eat,” Swift said. “We all want to see each other eat.”