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Looking Back - 2017 Running Backs - How Did Georgia Do?

Jason Brassell

We could talk about the history of running backs at The University of Georgia until we're blue in the face. Most Dawg fans could recite names, awards, and stats in their sleep. The prestige of the running back position at UGA is unmatched. As Ric Flair would say, "often imitated, but never duplicated". We can go on and on talking about the RB-U tradition at Georgia, but I'm going to end this introduction like D'Andre Swift's dad was ready to end the Auburn Tigers:

d swift dad throat cut gif.gif

Georgia identified D'Andre Swift as their top running back target early in the recruiting cycle, as the five star running back received an offer from the Dawgs in June of 2015. This was after he ran a 4.43 40, a 4.47 shuttle and had a 30 -inch vertical at the 2014 U.S. Army National Combine in San Antonio. After that, pretty much the entire nation was after him. Of course Penn State was on him early and often, being the in-state program. He visited the Nittany Lions multiple times. The 5'9 215 pound back had a big visit to Athens in March of 2016 and quickly returned a couple of weeks later. Swift named a top 5 in May of 2016, with Alabama, Clemson, and Florida State joining the Dawgs and Nittany Lions as his top teams. He committed to UGA in September of the same year and that was all she wrote. He only took one official visit and that was to Athens in January of 2017. He then signed his national letter of intent in February and officially became a Dawg.

UGA did have other top targets in the 2017 class that they tried to bring in with Swift, but all of them headed elsewhere. Toneil Carter was actually committed to Georgia for five months before flipping to in-state Texas in December of 2016. He ended up transferring to Sam Houston State after two years as a Longhorn. He lasted a year there and transferred again to Texas A&M - Kingsville. He didn't play in the Covid year of 2020. Trey Sermon was one of the most interesting prospects in 2017 in my book. Early on it seemed like he would've committed to UGA on the spot, but the Dawgs never really turned up the heat. Of course he ended up at Oklahoma, before transferring to Ohio State. Five Star Cam Akers was very much a top target, but ended up signing with Florida State. We tooks a look at Stephen Carr, who ended up at Southern Cal. Another top target was speedster Chubba Hubbard, who we actually had some momentum with for a while. He ended up at Oklahoma State. The running back we had the most momentum with and who it really looked like we would get for a while was Anthony McFarland. The speedster would have been the perfect compliment to Swift, but he went with the home state Maryland Terps.

Of course Swift spent his freshman season as the #3 back, learning from Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. After these two phenoms were taken in the NFL draft, it was Swift's turn to become the feature back. He took full advantage by racking up over 2200 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns the next two years. Of course, he was drafted in the second round with the 35th overall pick by the Detroit Lions.

So how did Swift do compared to other top running back targets and highly ranked RB prospects in his class?

2018 Top Running Backs Career Stats
D'Andre Swift 5*, #33 overall, #4 RB UGA DET, Rd 2, Pk 35 3 440 2885 6.6 20
Najee Harris 5*, #2 overall, #1 RB Bama PIT, Rd 1, Pk 24 4 638 3843 6 46
Cam Akers 5*, #3 overall, #2 RB FSU LAR, Rd 2, Pk 52 3 586 2875 4.9 27
Stephen Carr 5*, #20 overall, #3 RB USC/IND College 5 419 1919 4.6 18
Khalan Laborn 5*, #29 overall, #1 APB FSU College 3 63 297 4.7 4
JK Dobbins 4*, #46 overall, #2 RB Ohio St BAL, Rd 2, Pk 55 3 725 4459 6.2 38
Anthony McFarland 4*, #99 overall, #3 APB Maryland PIT, Rd 4, Pk 124 2 245 1648 6.7 12
Toneil Carter 4*, #162 overall, #10 RB TX/SHS College 2 79 402 5.1 6
Trey Sermon 4*, #191 overall, #12 RB Okla / Ohio St SF, Rd 3, Pk 88 4 455 2946 6.5 26
Travis Etienne 4*, #213 overall, #15 RB Clem JAC, Rd 1, Pk 25 4 686 4952 7.2 70
Chubba Hubbard 3*, #357 overall, #23 RB OkSt CAR, Rd 4, Pk 126 3 585 3459 5.9 33
Jonathan Taylor 3*, #371 overall, #24 RB Wisc IND, Rd 2, Pk 41 3 926 6174 6.7 50
Clyde Edwards-Helaire 3*, #378 overall, #5 APB LSU KC, Rd 1, Pk 32 3 370 2103 5.7 23
^^^Rank according to 247sports composite rankings

The first thing that jumps off the page is just how good this class of running backs was. My goodness, has there ever been a better group of backs in one class? You couldn't have gone wrong with at least nine of these guys. There were 10 NFL draft picks out of this group, with three 1st rounders and four 2nd rounders. Jonathan Taylor is the 6th leading rusher for yards gained in NCAA history. Travis Etienne is at #28 all-time in rushing yards, while JK Dobbins is at #68. Etienne's 70 rushing touchdowns puts him at sixth all-time, with Taylor's 50 touchdowns good enough to be tied at #38. This group of top running backs for the 2017 class accumulated a total of 37,962 rushing yards and 373 rushing touchdowns.

And that's just from this group. We just tried to concentrate on the highest rated backs and the one's that UGA had contact with. This doesn't include others like Ty Chandler, Eno Benjamin, and Brian Robinson. Most of the backs on this list had a good bit more carries than Swift in their college careers. You can see that only Etienne and Taylor had a higher average yards per carry (McFarland is at 6.7, but with only 245 carries). It's not a stretch to say that Swift could hit the 4000 yard mark if he didn't sit behind Chubb and Michel his freshman year.

It'd be tough to rate these elite players, even looking back now. I can say that I think we had the right player for the right time and wouldn't have traded him for any of these other guys.

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