Georgia football: Dare we say, Dawgs' running game can be even better in 2018
When Herschel Walker left the University of Georgia in 1982, there wasn’t a sane soul in America who thought Georgia’s running game would be better the following year.
And it wasn’t. The Bulldogs as a team averaged nearly 50 fewer yards per game in 1983 and Keith Montgomery led the team in rushing with 519 yards. Walker had 1,752 the year prior.
Do we need to remember Walker’s greatness? Here were his stats at Georgia:
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Fast forward now to 2018. Gone from the Bulldogs are the two guys — Nick Chubb and Sony Michel — who rank No. 2 and No. 3 all-time in rushing at Georgia, right behind Walker. They posted huge numbers and, most amazingly, they did it together, sharing carries and still dominating from 2014 through 2017.
So, unlike 35 years ago, let me say this: Georgia’s running game will be better in 2018.
That’s crazy, you say. Chubb and Michel were great, you say. They will be sorely missed, you say.
Well, you say wrong.
Yes, they set the bar high. Chubb topped 1,000 yards three times and finished with 4,769. He rushed for 44 touchdowns. Michel topped 1,000 yards twice and finished with 3,613. He added 33 rushing touchdowns. Both averaged more than 6 yards per carry for their career.
But there are several reasons to think Georgia’s running backs can take it up a notch this year. Here’s why:
- Big-play ability: D’Andre Swift proved last year that he can be explosive and freshman James Cook has proved the same thing all of camp. Veterans like Elijah Holyfield, who’s been waiting for his chance, will contribute as well.
- Soft schedule: This weak, weak, weak — yes, I know I said weak three times — nonconference schedule might allow the Bulldogs to go nuts in a few games, posting some 400-plus yardage numbers.
- Scary attack: The pieces surrounding these running backs are all better, with more experience for Jake Fromm at quarterback, a huge offensive line that averages about 330 pounds and wide receivers and tight ends that are threats to allow a dangerous and balanced attack.
Swift showed a lot last year as Georgia’s third back and 2018 could be really special for him. He has great speed and durability and he’ll break big runs, much like he did against Auburn in the SEC Championship Game with a 64-yard scamper. He’s also great out of the backfield as a receiving threat. He had 17 catches for 153 yards a year ago.
There’s even Heisman Trophy talk. Swift loves all the hype. Bring it on.
“It’s great,” the sophomore said. “I’ve got to show a lot of people. There’s kind of a little bit of hype behind me, so I need to show a lot of people what I can really do. I believe I’ll do that.”
The offensive line is better, too, and depth will make a big difference.
“They open big holes, so I love them,” Holyfield said earlier this week. “They’re super big. They cover people up. So, it’s a running back’s dream, you don’t see anything but your guys’ backs.”
Swift and Holyfield are different backs, but they meld well together. “We’re different type of backs in a great system – I believe we’re going to complement each other real well,” Swift said. “Kind of like Nick and Sony.”
And then there’s the depth, too. Cook has been dropping jaws all camp and will be hard to keep off the field. “We’re so deep at the position. When I come out, when Elijah comes out, we’re not going to lose it at all,” Swift said.
The backs are all in this together, which is great. They push each other to succeed.
“Our coach always says do less thinking and more working,” Holyfield said. “That’s something we try to do, just go to work. There is only one way to replace the type of great guys like (Chubb and Michel). And that’s to go to work.”
Others have seen it, too. Former quarterback Aaron Murray, who’s becoming quite the media star now, loves what he sees and he agrees — this group could be better.
“We saw (Swift) last year. This kid, he’s something special,” Murray said “He’s elusive, he has speed, he has size, and he has an ability to catch the ball. He looks like a receiver out there.