The Georgia Bulldogs insist they will be just fine at running back this season.
Even after the departures of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, and even after last Saturday's season-ending setback to five-star freshman Zamir White.
"Georgia is known as 'RBU,' so our coaches will figure it out," junior Elijah Holyfield told reporters Tuesday night after practice. "They will find a way to make it work."
White's absence leaves the Bulldogs with the foursome of Holyfield, fellow junior Brian Herrien, sophomore D'Andre Swift and freshman James Cook. Swift is the team's top returning rusher, having gained 618 yards and averaged 7.6 yards per carry last season, and he is expected to be the starter for the Sept. 1 opener against Austin Peay.
Swift did not shy away from a stacked depth chart when he arrived at Georgia last year, and he appreciates having the opportunity to spend a year learning under Chubb and Michel, the second and third all-time leading rushers in program history. Yet the 5-foot-9, 215-pounder from Philadelphia is ready to unveil a new wave of talent.
"We kind of want to be our own people," Swift said. "Nick and Sony left a great legacy here, but I think we're going to do something really special, too. With the O-line we have and the whole team, I think we're going to do something really special."
The 5-foot-11, 215-yard Holyfield rushed for 293 yards and 5.9 yards a carry last season, while the 6-foot, 210-pound Herrien had 265 yards and averaged 4.3 a clip. Holyfield also is very optimistic about the season ahead, echoing Swift's praising of the offensive line that returns four of five starters.
"They are super big," Holyfield said. "They cover people up. It's a running back's dream when all you see are the backs of your guys."
White, of course, was experiencing that same enjoyment until this past weekend, when he tore his left ACL while covering a punt during the second preseason scrimmage. He was in the finishing stages of a comeback from a torn right ACL during the second round of the North Carolina state playoffs last November.
Georgia's tailbacks learned the severity of White's injury early Saturday evening.
"It's sad to see," Swift said. "He was doing so well and was getting ready to contribute to the team. I texted him immediately after I found out and told him that I was here for him."
Said Holyfield: "He's a lot stronger than me. I don't know how I would handle that."
Swift and Holyfield have different styles and believe they will complement each other nicely. It's a different situation from a year ago, when Swift, Holyfield and Herrien often entered games after Chubb and Michel had worn down opposing defenses.
Now it's Swift who likely will have to set the tone.
"There is a lot of hype behind me, so I've got to show people what I can do," Swift said. "I think I'm about to do that. I'm comfortable between the tackles, and I feel like when I get into space, the highlights will come."
Georgia and Oregon will meet in the 2022 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sept. 3, 2022.
"Opening the season in Atlanta against a Power Five opponent is a tremendous opportunity for our team and provides a great start to the season for our fans," Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart said in a release. "The first game of the season is always important, and this matchup on a national stage will be a test for both teams."
Said athletic director Greg McGarity: "It's an illustration of Kirby's desire to schedule an additional nonconference Power Five opponent whenever possible."
The Bulldogs and Ducks have met just once before, with Georgia winning 27-16 at Sanford Stadium in 1977.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.