Sony Michel and Nick Chubb returned for a reason: Chubb felt he had some unfinished business to attend to with a certain North Avenue university, and Michel likely saw the benefit of coming back for one more year to increase his NFL Draft stock for 2018.
Thanks to an inconsistent offense, and a couple of nagging injuries (for both), neither was able to maximize his potential in Jim Chaney’s first season as Offensive Coordinator. However, with the decision to return, both likely will be at the top of many a prognosticator’s preseason watch list–Chubb is already pegged with strong Heisman odds yet again.
None of the potential accolades matter, in my opinion.
If Chaney can’t do a better job of using the running, including the incoming D’Andre Swift–who may be able to help fill some of the void left behind by Isaiah McKenzie–it’s going to be tough sledding for the offense.
Chaney needs to do a better job of getting each of them the ball (early and often) if the rest of the offense has any real chance to open up the way it needs to in order to keep Georgia competitive each week.
While it would be in poor taste for me to overlook the presence of the other returning backs on the roster, in the wake of McKenzie’s departure, Swift’s presence intrigues me that much more.
As the lone running back signed in the last recruiting cycle, he’s likely to garner the most significant preseason attention, but not just for his ability to run the football. Swift is every bit as confidenct catching passes as he as taking hand-offs. That’s something to remember when you consider Kirby Smart’s desire to put the “best 11” on the field.
You can bet Jacob Eason benefits from having play makers at every position. If Swift fits that bill, and continues to remain healthy, his progress certainly bears watching this spring.
As for Michel and Chubb, they will most certainly be counted on to make sure the train (as my friend, Buc might say) stays on the proverbial track.
The running backs will be the conduit through which this offense finds the ability to run with efficiency and (hopefully) success. Both will need to get off to a good start–and hopefully the schedule will be a plus, not a minus, to that endeavor–and as they go, so will likely go Eason.
A successful running game will allow Eason to relax more. That way he can focus on making the passes he often felt too rushed or amped to complete consistently last year.
Of course, much of this will depend on how well Sam Pittman (offensive line coach) prepares his charges–both old and new–to do their respective jobs. Georgia will certainly need to find a serviceable Center.
Lamont Gaillard is on deck, but if he isn’t ready to step into the position, Georgia may have to turn to a true freshman for the job and, if that happens, it would be an issue worthy of a different discussion altogether.
There are certainly plenty of cogs to the wheel, to be sure, but there can be little question that the running game will set the tone for how well the offense is able to perform.