Georgia football fans crave a national championship, and this season might be the year their wait comes to an end. However, the first step toward making that happen is for UGA coach Kirby Smart to lead the Bulldogs to a third-straight SEC East title. With that in mind, DawgNation is proud to present — in partnership with Georgia’s Own Credit Union — “Own the East.” A season preview content series focused on what it will take for UGA to dominate the division once again, and possibly return to the College Football Playoff.
Georgia begins the upcoming season with two of the favorites for the Heisman Trophy. UGA quarterback Jake Fromm and running back D’Andre Swift seemingly have strong shots to give the Bulldogs something the program hasn’t had in some time.
UGA last had a Heisman finalist in 1992 – when running back Garrison Hearst finished third. Since then, the Bulldogs have had a player finish in the top 10 of voting five times. Quarterback Eric Zeier finished 10th in 1993 and seventh in 1994. Defensive back Champ Bailey also finished seventh in 1998. Linebackers Jarvis Jones and Roquan Smith both finished 10th in 2012 and 2017 respectively.
Fromm and Swift were recently listed as 14/1 to win the award according to Bet Online. Only six players had better odds.
Swift entertained the possibility he could follow in the footsteps of the last UGA player to win the award — the great Herschel Walker, who won it in 1982 — when asked about the topic last December.
“Next season, yeah, I’d like to be on the Heisman list. Who wouldn’t be?” Swift said. “This offseason I’m going to work, work, work. I think this team next year can do whatever we want to do if we put our minds to it.”
SEC Network analyst Chris Doering has picked Swift to win the Heisman and recently appeared on DawgNation Daily to explain why.
“Obviously, I know it’s a little bit of a longshot, and I know he’s got a teammate in Jake Fromm that’s probably more of a favorite to win the Heisman than (he) is, but there’s something about this guy,” Doering said. “I know he played a lot of the first half last year injured, and that hurt his numbers, and his value to the team early in the season, but as he got healthier, (and) as the season wore on, you got to see a little more of exactly who he was.”
Doering explains that it’s the extra dimension Swift provides that potentially sets him apart.
“The reason that I have him as my (Heisman pick) is because he’s a dual-purpose back,” Doering said. “I know that backfield is crowded, but this is a guy who can be your No. 1 back. We saw his versatility in the receiving game, what he’s able to do in terms of not only catching the ball in the backfield, but lining up in the slot, moving around and creating matchups that are advantageous in one-on-one receiving situations. I think this is a guy — if he’s healthy — he’s got the ability to pick up the tough yards for you, but more importantly, he’s got that breakaway speed that you need to put up big numbers and some of those highlights that are going to garner some Heisman attention.”
Swift’s value in the passing game is also something Walker has noticed.
“What I’m happy to see about the running backs at Georgia, they’re not just… running backs, they can catch the ball,” Walker said. “D’Andre Swift, let me tell you, that guy’s a football player. I wish I had that ‘stop and go’ like he has. He’s not just a quick guy, a fast guy — he’s strong.”
Swift (32 catches for 297 yards in 2018) is UGA’s leading returning receiver due to the early departures of wide receivers Mecole Hardman and Riley Ridley, as well as tight end Isaac Nauta — along with the unexpected offseason dismissal of J.J. Holloman.
Yet for the attention Swift could gain by adding more receptions to his already prodigious rushing numbers, the guy delivering him those throws will get noticed as well.
In fact, ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit thinks Fromm could be a smart Heisman bet given his odds.
“I think Georgia has a chance to have magical year. Arguably the best leader in the country is Jake Fromm,” Herbstreit recently said. “I know he hasn’t put up big numbers up to this point in his career, but I do think his steady hand, and his leadership and Georgia winning week after week after week — Don’t be shocked if you get to November and Jake Fromm will be a name that a lot of people are talking about.”
If people are truly talking about Fromm at the end of the season, Fromm won’t be listening. He insists he ignores that kind of chatter.
“For me, I’m not really worried about that,” Fromm said at SEC Media Days. “I’m trying to take my team and go 1-0 every week.”
Fromm’s probably correct not to concern himself with award buzz, and the talk that surrounds him – including some that’s already started.
“I do think this is an important year for (Fromm),” Doering said. “He gets a chance to step up as an upperclassman. He’s already been a leader. I remember that drive in the Rose Bowl… watching Jake Fromm bring his team back from a deficit in the college football semifinals. You knew all that season he just had the respect of his teammates and had that ‘it factor’ that you talk about at the quarterback position. I’m anxious to see him take a step forward.”
Assuming Fromm does take that step forward, and Swift remains fully healthy and lives up to his potential, which of the two players is more likely to emerge as a true contender, and which scenario would benefit UGA most?
“I think Georgia fans would be pretty happy with either of those guys hoisting the Heisman Trophy in December,” Doering said.
Indeed that’s likely the case – especially considering that a Heisman run for Fromm or Swift would include the strong possibility that UGA makes a push for a national championship as well.