It doesn’t matter the decade or coach or nationally popular style of offense at the time — Georgia always seems to feature a star running back.
Herschel Walker, Terrell Davis, Todd Gurley and Knowshon Moreno have all donned the famous ‘G’ on the side of their helmets. So too did the dynamic duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. South Carolina running backs coach Thomas Brown did so from 2004-2007, as did Willie McClendon (1976-1978), the dad of Gamecock offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon.
Georgia’s current running back tandem of D’Andre Swift and Brian Herrien — which South Carolina (2-3) will face on Saturday at noon in Athens, Ga. — has continued the school’s dominance at the position.
“Of course the backs are outstanding, Swift and Herrien, [Zamir] White and [James] Cook, are all very talented guys,” Gamecock head coach Will Muschamp said Tuesday. “They do a good job of getting those guys the ball in some different ways.”
No. 3 Georgia (5-0) ranks third in the SEC in scoring offense and total offense (42.8 points per game, 512.6 yards per game) — an attack aided by the conference’s best rushing unit (250.4 yards per game). Swift ranks fifth individually (92.4 yards per game), a clip 18.4 yards more than the Gamecocks’ Rico Dowdle, while Herrien and White both have neared a 50-yard average.
“They’ve got some big boys, some big offensive lineman,” Gamecock defensive end Aaron Sterling said. “That’s what they try to do, impose their will with the run game.”
Georgia’s potent rushing attack begins with what Sterling mentioned — a star-studded offensive line. The unit, which features preseason All-SEC first-teamer Andrew Thomas and second-teamers Solomon Kinley and Isaiah Wilson, averages 328.6 pounds.
Though South Carolina has allowed a respectable 139 yards per game on the ground, it’s most-often used quartet — Javon Kinlaw, D.J. Wonnum, Kobe Smith and Aaron Sterling — averages 278.6 pounds.
With a 50-pound average difference, Gamecock linebackers know they must help their defensive linemen plug running lanes and wrap up tackles.
They also know they must limit explosive plays — something Muschamp mentioned. Five Georgia running backs have a rush of at least 29 yards this season while eight have a run of at least 14 yards.
“The bottom line is we need to be more consistent defensively,” the coach said. “We’ve done some really good things at times, [but] we haven’t done them enough.”
South Carolina linebacker Ernest Jones used the word powerful twice when describing Georgia’s offense.
“[They play] physical and like to run the ball a lot,” he said. “Set up, run the ball, run the ball. Set up, play-action pass.”
Said Sterling, “They get the ball on the perimeter a lot. They run a lot of stretch plays. They run speed sweeps with the receivers they’ve got. They’ve got some fast receivers [and] they’ve got a good running back.”
But in watching video of the Georgia offense, Sterling also saw defenders misreading where holes eventually opened.
At the end of his news conference Tuesday, Muschamp was asked specifically about Georgia’s potent rushing attack. The coach, maybe not wanting to reveal too much, was extremely matter-of-fact.
“They’re really talented at running back and they’re really talented on their offensive line,” he said. “And they’ve got a quarterback that gets them in and out of the right run schemes.
“When you mix that all together it makes for a pretty good run game.”