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Current State of Running Back Recruiting

Craig Lawson

As many of us are aware it appears as if Georgia is set to miss out on highly coveted in-state running back recruit, Justice Hayes. Nothing is set in stone until LOIs are signed, and even then the portal is always an option, but as of right now, Georgia isn't getting great news. This post began as a comment on Jason Brasell's post about Haynes, but once I hit three paragraphs I figured it would better serve as a separate post. I hate to lose Haynes, and it makes it worse seeing him sign with Alabama. It's no secret that the Georgia backfield has not been up to the standard that was maintained fairly consistently for well over a decade going back to the Richt era. Perhaps we just got spoiled going from Moreno to Crowell to Gurley/Marshall, Chubb/Michel and Swift/Holyfield. Zeus/Cook and company in 2020 and 2021 were easily the least talented backfield of the Smart era and that may have been surpassed by the 2022 backfield in that respect. That probably sounds controversial if not offensive to many of you, but really it's just a testament to how good Georgia's backfield has been over the years. From 2007-2019 there has hardly been a season without a future NFL starting running back or a 1,000 yard rusher on the field, and at times Georgia has had as many as three at once.

All that said, given the established standard, I think it's fair to question the last few recruiting cycles understanding that while it's a compelling conversation to have it's also nothing to freak out about. I really like Georgia's current backfield a lot, and I think they're more than good enough to win yet another championship. I also think there are some future NFL guys in that room, but I can't help but look to the immediate west and notice that Auburn and Alabama both have starting running backs who I believe would easily be one of the best tandems in the country if they were combined in Athens behind Georgia's offensive line. Just like Haynes,Tank Bigsby and Jahmyr Gibbs are both former Georgia high school recruits who, if memory serves, would have come to Georgia if they were prioritized. Tank was slow played and by the time the Zac Evans drama unfolded it was too late. I think Georgia could have taken Gibbs at any point but decided to go with Daijun Edwards after the Evans situation fell through. It's important to note that every major program in the country missed on Gibbs which is why he initially fell to Georgia Tech before transferring to Alabama. 

As for Haynes, you would think a kid like that, from the state of Georgia, whose father made one of the most legendary plays in Georgia football history would be a slam dunk signee, committing early and recruiting the rest of the country for the Dawgs. It hasn't worked out that way, and it is understandably frustrating given the circumstances. Even the best coaching staffs miss on players, Georgia has the best staff in the country, but at one point or another this same staff decided D'Wan Mathis was an SEC starting qb (he's since transferred to G5 program, Temple, and has been moved to wide receiver), and they thought MJ Sherman was a more promising prospect than in-state, Will Anderson, who is about to be a top 5 draft pick while Sherman has barely seen the field in 3 seasons. Those are just two of the most egregious examples off the top of my head, to go along with the aforementioned Gibbs and Bigsby whiffs. I'm sure there are more, and there will be more yet to come, but this staff hits on a lot more than they miss. Remember, Kenny McIntosh, who has nearly 1200 scrimmage yards this season, was viewed as more of a consolation prize in 2019 after Georgia missed out on, #1 running back, Trey Sanders who also signed with Alabama. Sanders is now in the transfer portal after four underwhelming seasons in Tuscaloosa following an unfortunate car accident.

I'm confident that under Smart we will see the Georgia backfield standard return to the previous levels everyone has grown accustomed to (imagine Nick Chubb or Todd Gurley in Monken's offense), but Georgia is more than fine with the current standing of the room. It's not like the kids that are coming in are slouches. Perhaps Roderick Robinson or Andrew Paul are the next big things. Maybe Branson Robinson, Kendall Milton or Edwards find another gear. Maybe Georgia lands a major transfer. Ultimately, even if none of them become first rounders there is no reason to be concerned about the talent in Georgia's backfield going forward, at least not at this point. 

Edited by Craig Lawson

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