Georgia Football: RBU at a Crossroads

Georgia Football: RBU at a Crossroads

Han Vance on Georgia football: Running Back University is a mantle no other college can come close to wrestling away from UGA. Founded in 1785 as the birthplace of American public higher education and having commenced Deep South college football on-campus at Herty Field in 1892, this is where the ball gets run.

Run the damn ball!

Sinkwich and Trippi and the dream backfield. Herschel, Hearst, Hampton, Worley, Tate and Edwards; Musa, Sony and Chubb; Gurley and Moreno.

When Georgia is going good, the Dawgs are always running well.

That is never ever not true, even though Charlie Trippi and Fran Tarkenton are both in the college football hall of fame and pro football hall of fame as quarterbacks, nice guy David Greene was the all-time winningest quarterback in NCAA history when he matriculated, his one-year replacement D.J. Shockley was first-team all-SEC, Matthew Stafford went #1 overall to the NFL and Aaron Murray (still) has the most passing yards (13,166) in SEC history. Prior to Mariettan Eric Zeier’s 11,153 – then an SEC record, barely eclipsed by Peyton Manning shortly thereafter – this was even more true.

The toss sweep was Georgia’s bread and butter.

Mark Richt recruits Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb and Sony Michel should have, in retrospect, been lining up together in a wishbone quarterbacked by Joystick. Gurley’s sheer athletic dominance, when on the field, gradually gave way to the power and versatile grace of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Sony and Chubb finished as the most productive rushing duo in college football history.

First and foremost under head coach Kirby Smart, the ground game has been built by a stable of runners behind big blockers recruited and coached up by Sam Pittman, the current Arkansas head coach. So losing Pitt-Boss hurts a lot in my estimation, regardless of the fact that former Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke was a good-get replacement who cobbled together a winning O-line formula for the sUGAr Bowl.

Georgia relied too heavily on Swift last season, and then when he was relegated to decoy status in Atlanta, the team fell apart.

D’Andre Swift had played plenty as a true frosh behind those two great backs. Then he and power back Elijah Holyfield teamed to give Georgia the now-151 years old sport’s first ever back-to-back double thousand yard tandems. With Holyfield falling behind Zamir White, potentially, the son of the many times heavyweight champion boxer bolted for a long-shot long and productive NFL career, which hasn’t panned out too well for him so far. Leaving Swift, workman-like Brian Herrien and speedster James Cook in Athens, after White had a second catastrophic injury. Holyfield should have stayed in school and very well may have if he truly knew of his golden opportunity, which is what White has now.

Who are the horses?

Zamir “ZEU$” White was the best football player in the nation his junior year of high school, many said. He got hurt. He healed. He waited. He got hurt again. He healed. He waited. Thrust into the spotlight, he ran for a paltry one yard a carry in the SECCG last year, when the team finally needed him to perform, on a big stage.

He has no long runs of 30 yards or more in his college career to-date but had a productive (sub-100 yard) game in the sUGAr. He has no 100+ yard games at UGA, period, as was the case when Swift and Holyfield took over full-time for Sony and Chubb.

The difference there is that, like I said, Swift had shown serious signs of on-field greatness. Factually, White hasn’t. Can he? Maybe.

James Cook is the younger brother of excellent pro Dalvin. He got into trouble before the Sugar Bowl and I definitely feel should have been benched for it. He was played instead and got hurt. He’s fast.

Out of Ft. Lauderdale, sophomore Kenny McIntosh got some good carries in the postseason and looked quick, but his sample size was way too small for me to ascertain much. I hoped for him to get more touches.

I don’t ever base college production on high school stats. I’m like an old crusty coach who has to see it with my own two eyes, against the big boys, to buy in at all behind a small smile on national signing day.

Four-star recruit Daijun Edwards has less hype than many of the backs ranked higher than him out of high school, but he could produce and was a top 20 national runner. He was into UGA from his sophomore season on, but the Bulldogs held out hope for (TCU get) five-star Zach Evans to re-commit. He never did as Edwards became this year’s solid #2. Gurley was an annual number two grab to oft-injured Keith Marshall, by the way. He played right away and had two touchdowns and another key run on his first three touches as a true freshman. You never know.

But, Kendall Milton does. The supremely confident true freshman from California was a prominent figure in this year’s horse sweepstakes, and his father says, “He is not coming all the way across the country to sit.” Sounds to me like he plays right away or is a likely candidate for transfer watch. Some simple homer fans get mad at me when I say, what is commonly said amongst insiders, but when a player slips into “transfer watch” he’s simply one we keep an eye on to get his way or leave.

By that definition, all modern quarterbacks are on transfer watch. But that, as they say, is for another day. I’m too tired of talking quarterback quandary in the Classic City. Where we have to run to win.

Replacing 4-of-5 starters on any offensive line is a bad sign. Throw in no spring camp, no summer camp, and a new scheme in fall camp, and oh boy Georgia surely could have used a calm steady hand like Jake Fromm, as a senior. Someone unproven will be handing it to someone unproven running behind some unproven guys. Does that sound national champ-ish?

Not to me either.

Milton may be the greatest get since Herschel or he may be a total bust. That’s the real nature of recruiting. Had a friend say, erroneously, a five-star will likely play in the NFL. It just isn’t factual, as more don’t pan out than do, at any school. Much less the league. Milton is an upright, taller runner in the mold of Eric Dickerson. He panned out.