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Post Will Georgia have a 1,000-yard rusher in 2018?

Wednesday September 19, 2018

The last time Georgia failed to produce a 1,000-yard rusher was in 2013 when Todd Gurley came up just 11 yards short after missing four games due to injury. Could it happen in 2018?

The Georgia running game is alive and well this season. The Dawgs are rushing for 272 yards per game, good for 12th in the nation. What’s unique is the distribution of carries(*). Starting tailback D’Andre Swift has just 24 carries – 8 per game. No fewer than nine players have had a carry in each game, and only once (Swift’s 12 carries at South Carolina) has a player had double-digit carries. Only one player has reached 100 yards in a game, and Holyfield did that on eight carries thanks in large part to one explosive run. When you’re winning big, you get to play a lot of people…and rest others.

Ultimately the 1,000-yard mark is an arbitrary target, and Kirby Smart won’t care so long as the team is accomplishing what it needs to on the ground. It matters a little more to fans, and I’m sure deep down even the most unselfish back aspires to say he had a 1,000-yard season. There’s a certain amount of prestige that comes with being a 1,000-yard rusher. It’s like a pitcher winning 20 games or hitting 40 home runs in baseball or reaching the 1,000-point plateau in a college basketball career.

So with a quarter of the season gone (I know…), this is how Georgia’s top rushers stand:

  1. Holyfield (200 yds)
  2. Swift (119 yds)
  3. Cook (105 yds)
  4. Robertson (95 yards)
  5. Herrien (91 yds)

Right now no one player is on pace to reach 1,000 yards. At the current rate, Holyfield would have 800 yards at the end of the regular season. Georgia would need another run to the national title game to get Holyfield to 1,000 yards.

For now, there’s no reason to expect much to change while it’s working. Some of the factors that might affect how Georgia runs the ball and who ultimately leads the team in rushing:

  • Tougher opponents. The competition ramps up over the next couple of weeks, and that could mean a couple of things. First, you’re more likely to lean on your top performers in closer games. We saw this at South Carolina where Swift had the most carries of the season. It also might mean going up against better rushing defenses. Can Georgia keep up their production using the approach that’s worked so far? Will the sweeps be as effective and explosive? Will blocking – whether on the perimeter or by the offensive line – continue to create space?
  • Injuries. It’s rare for Georgia to have its top back available all season. Swift missed time in the spring with a groin injury, and his limited duty against MTSU led to some concern. Smart said he expects the tailback group to be at “100 percent” for the Missouri game. For now we’ll just leave the Swift scare as a reminder that injuries can and probably will affect availability and yardage. On the other hand, injuries do create opportunities for other players to increase their workload.
  • The Wild Dawg. We haven’t seen too much of it this year, but we know it’s a standard part of the offense now and something that’s been worked on during preseason. Whoever lines up in that formation stands to add some yardage.
  • Explosive runs. As Holyfield showed against MTSU, one long run can give a big boost to a player’s stats. The next thing you know, you’re Sony Michel putting up 137 yards on six carries against Florida, and your totals begin to look a lot more impressive. There are several ballcarriers capable of those kinds of runs and performances.

(*) – In fact, Georgia’s distribution of carries to this point might more closely resemble that of option-style teams. Even in the lean Paul Johnson years, Tech has been able to run the ball. In five of his ten seasons in Atlanta, the Jackets didn’t have a 1,000-yard rusher.

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