Swift looks to ful­fill hype as UGA reloads at run­ning back

Calhoun Times - - SPORTS SATURDAY - By Charles Odum

— Zamir White’s knee in­jury takes some of the mys­tery out of Ge­or­gia’s at­tempt to reload at tail­back af­ter los­ing Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to the NFL.

D’Andre Swift, al­ready the fa­vorite to take the first snap in No. 3 Ge­or­gia’s opener against Austin Peay on Sept. 1, now is even more im­por­tant to the Bull­dogs.

Swift had success last year, when he ran for 618 yards as a fresh­man in a com­ple­men­tary role be­hind Chubb and Michel. Now Swift must prove he can han­dle a big­ger share of the car­ries.

“It’s great,” Swift said af­ter prac­tice Tues­day. “I’ve got to show a lot to peo­ple. I’ve got a lit­tle bit of hype be­hind me so I’ve got to show peo­ple what I can do.”

White, one of the big­gest names in Ge­or­gia’s topranked fresh­man class , was ex­pected to push Swift, Eli­jah Holy­field and Brian Her­rien and pos­si­bly even­tu­ally start this sea­son.

In­stead, White suf­fered his sec­ond se­ri­ous knee in­jury in less than a year and is ex­pected to miss the sea­son.

White was still wear­ing a pro­tec­tive brace on his surgically re­paired right knee, hurt late in his se­nior sea­son in high school, when he tore the an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment in his left knee in Sat­ur­day’s scrim­mage. White was work­ing on a punt cov­er­age team and was not hit when he suf­fered the in­jury, ac­cord­ing to coach Kirby Smart.

Ge­or­gia is left with four schol­ar­ship play­ers at tail­back in­clud­ing fresh­man James Cook, who has im­pressed team­mates with his speed in prac­tice.

“Ge­or­gia is known as RB U. so our coaches will fig­ure it out,” said Holy­field, the son of former box­ing cham­pion Evan­der Holy­field.

Holy­field (5-11, 215) is a strong, pun­ish­ing run­ner who, like his fa­ther, has good bal­ance and is dif­fi­cult to bring down.

Swift (5-9, 215) has more big­play po­ten­tial, as he showed with his 64-yard touch­down run in Ge­or­gia’s South­east­ern Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship game win over Auburn last sea­son. But he never had more than 10 car­ries in a game.

Swift says he’s not wor­ried about pos­si­bly tir­ing in a game due to Ge­or­gia’s depth at the po­si­tion, even af­ter los­ing White.

“We’re so deep at the po­si­tion,” Swift said. “When I come out and Eli­jah comes out we’re not go­ing to lose any­thing at all.”

When asked how Swift has grown into a pos­si­ble lead role this year, Holy­field just smiled.

“Well, Swift has been good since he got here,” Holy­field said. “He hasn’t had to. I mean, he’s got­ten better in other as­pects of his game, be­com­ing a more com­plete back. I think he’s go­ing to be very ready to step into that role and be awe­some.”

Out­side line­backer D’Andre Walker says Ge­or­gia’s run­ning game won’t suf­fer a let­down.

“I don’t think it re­ally changes,” Walker said. “I feel like they re­cruit some of the sim­i­lar guys each year. They are all very fast and they don’t mind run­ning you over.” Swift agreed. “We have a great group of guys here,” he said, adding “I think we’ll have a great year at run­ning back.”

Walker com­pared Cook, the younger brother of Min­nesota Vik­ings run­ning back Dalvin Cook, with Michel. “But a lit­tle bit faster,” he said.

Chubb and Michel are sig­nif­i­cant losses af­ter rank­ing sec­ond and third, re­spec­tively, be­hind only Her­schel Walker on the Bull­dogs’ ca­reer rushing list.

“Last year when we were be­hind Sony and Nick we’d pre­pare like we were go­ing to start the game,” Holy­field said. “Now that it’s our time, we’ll be pre­pared.”

JOSHUA L. JONES / The As­so­ci­ated Press

Ge­or­gia run­ning back D’Andre Swift runs a drill at a re­cent Bull­dogs’ prac­tice. Swift goes into his sopho­more sea­son in Athens as the fa­vorite to win the start­ing job at run­ning back.

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