ATHENS — Times are changing in college athletics, perhaps more in the past couple of years than the previous two decades according to the recently retired Dean of SEC Coaches.
Jack Bauerle, who retired last week after 43 years coaching UGA swimmers and winning seven national championships, shared insight into now versus then.
“This has been discussed among coaches in every sport, we have seen more changes in the kids when the arrive in the last two years than we did in 12 or 15 years before it,” Bauerle said during the Ingles On the Beat Show.
“I think COVID had a lot to do with it, I think a lot of them were more on the impersonal side of things because of they were shut down from the social part and relied more on Zooms, text messaging and Instagram and TikTok, and guess what, that’s not talking to someone and that’s not real.
“Then you throw in the NIL and the portal and I think it’s changed.”
Bauerle, a seven-time national championship coach and six-time Olympic coach, has been a leader among UGA coaches since being hired by then-AD and football coach Vince Dooley in 1979.
It’s well-documented that athletes have gotten bigger, stronger, faster and better conditioned over the years, but there’s at least one former Bulldog who Bauerle believes would have stood the test of time: Herschel Walker.
“He’d run wild,” Bauerle said, asked how the UGA college football version of Walker from the early 1980s would fare in today’s game.
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No doubt, Walker was selected by ESPN as the second-greatest college football player in history just two years ago.
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If not for Walker’s heroic Sugar Bowl performance, playing through a shoulder separation suffered in the first quarter against Notre Dame, the Bulldogs would not have won the 1980 national championship.
Walker was 6-foot-2, 222 pounds while playing at UGA, so to Bauerle’s point, he would have been able to measure up physically.
Walker also ran the 100 meters in 10.22 seconds, which compares favorably to some of the fastest players of the Kirby Smart Era, from Eric Stokes and Tyson Campbell (10.39), to Tyler Simmons (10.76) and Demetris Robertson (10.76).
The fastest current UGA player is Arian Smith — a 185-pound receiver — who ran a 10.18 while on the track team.
Bauerle took note of Walker’s production, citing a 47-carry game Walker’s sophomore season against Florida.
“People think they hit harder now than they did then, they are mistaken,” Bauerle said. " Watch that game — there would have been 15 or 10 times when they’d have been throw out in this day and age. They leveled each other.”
Walker averaged more than 30 carries a game over his 33-game three-year career (bowl stats were not counted) in setting 11 NCAA records, 16 SEC marks and 41 UGA records.
Walker had more carries (1,083) and career yards (5,595) in 36 games over his three seasons than UGA’s top two rushers had over the past four seasons in 71 games combined.
All-time RBU career stats
1. Herschel Walker (36 games, 1,083 carries, 5,595 yards)
2. Nick Chubb (47 games, 758 carries, 4,769 yards)
3. Sony Michel (47 games, 591 carries, 3,638 yards)
4. Todd Gurley (30 games, 510 carries, 3,285 yards)
5. Garrison Hearst (34 games, 580 carries, 3,416 yards)
6. Lars Tate (46 games, 679 carries, 3,374 yards)
7. D’Andre Swift (43 games, 440 carries, 2,885 yards)
8. Knowshon Moreno (26 games, 498 carries, 2,734 yards
No. 15 Zamir White (38 games, 382 carries, 2,043 yards)