Trevor Etienne got off what he perceived to be a sinking ship and swam for smoother waters. The former Florida running back transferred to Georgia this offseason and has sparred absolutely no Gator feelings since doing so.

“I wanted to play in December, too. That also played a big part in me transferring,” Etienne said on the Real Talk Podcast recently. “So, I could stay and be running back (No.) 2 on a losing team or go somewhere and possibly be running back (No.) 1 and win a natty.”

Etienne said his phone was ringing incessantly within minutes of posting on social media about his decision to enter the transfer portal last December. He had no intention of a lengthy second recruitment, and he narrowed his top options to two — Georgia and Ohio State.

With the Bulldogs, the former blue-chip recruit certainly has an opportunity to play a key role right away.

Georgia saw offseason departures from its top two rushers in 2023 — Daijun Edwards and Kendall Milton. That duo combined for 286 carries. No other skill player had more than 30 rushing attempts.

Roderick Robinson (24 attempts, 196 yards), Andrew Paul (29 attempts, 129 yards), and walk-on Cash Jones (22 attempts, 161 yards) are all back. The 2024 signing class brought three freshmen into the room, including top-50 recruit Nate Frazier.

But Etienne can win the job. The 5-foot-9, 205-pound back played in 11 games with 1 start last fall. He was the Gators’ leader in rushing touchdowns (8), yards per carry (5.7), and yards per game (68.4). He ended the season with 753 rushing yards and another 172 yards as a receiver.

Montrell Johnson Jr. led the team in carries. Returning for 2024, he was always likely to command the top spot in the backfield again.

But the situation in Gainesville has the potential to get contentious in 2024. Coach Billy Napier has faced considerable heat for the start of his Florida tenure and enters Year 3 with questions about his job security. After consecutive losing campaigns, Napier finds himself in a must-win situation in 2024. And the schedule he’ll have to navigate is treacherous.

Things could go sideways.

Georgia, meanwhile, is in a different stratosphere. Florida lost seven games in each of Etienne’s two seasons with the team; the Bulldogs have lost only six games total in the last five years. And they’ll enter the new season as an overwhelming favorite to make it to the College Football Playoff.

Quarterback Carson Beck provides the optimism on offense. A fully realized Etienne would be a huge boost. Georgia hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since D’Andre Swift left town after the 2019 season, and it has gone more by-committee in the years since.

Last year, according to Pro Football Focus, Etienne averaged more than 4 yards a carry after contact and forced 35 missed tackles. He was the SEC’s ninth-best rusher, with a run grade of 85.4. He’ll need to show considerable growth in pass-pro. Coach Kirby Smart will hand him nothing.

Etienne might believe he should have received more run at Florida. You always want your skill players to ooze confidence. But he’s not a finished product as a tailback. He has the tools to be a force out of the Georgia backfield with some development.

And he’ll have plenty of time to get up to speed before facing his former team on Nov. 2.

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