There are many parallels that have been made between the early offseason between the 2020 and 2021 seasons and that of the 2016 and 2017 seasons. One of them is the significant amount of draft eligible, impact players that have elected to return to the University of Georgia. Albeit in a different historical context in terms of career accomplishments, Georgia’s top 2 running backs are returning to campus in Zamir White and James Cook, much in the same vein that Nick Chubb and Sony Michel did. White and Cook certainly fit the same cliché thunder and lightning description as that Chubb and Michel did respectively. However, there is one major difference. Or, I suppose you could say 3 major differences.
Chubb and Michel were backed up by Brien Herrien. Keep in mind this was not the Brien Herrien that Georgia would see in years to come. This was a developing prospect and spot back. White and Cook have the luxury of sharing the burden in the backfield with 3 returning blue-chip prospects that are all homerun threats each time they touch the ball. Kenny McIntosh, Kendall Milton, and Daijun Edwards all had the media covering Georgia football and the fanbase clamoring for more opportunities for each of them at different points in the 2020 season. At times, when Milton touched the ball, flashes of Chubb-like balance and power were prevalent. Also, as a whole, the group of returning Dawgs running backs in 2021 is much more diverse in their productions that that would stick around in Athens in the fall of 2017.
Chubb, Michel, and Herrien accounted for 459 carries and 2333 rushing yards in the 2016 season. White, McIntosh, Cook, Edwards, and Milton tallied 308 carries for 1764 yards. So the top 3 in 2016 averaged 5.08 yards per carry and the top 5 in 2020 averaged 5.73 yards per carry. Obviously, Georgia’s model for success was different offensively back then, but that is also evident in the receiving stats. Georgia backs in 2020 had 34 catches for 398 yards, an average of 11.7 yards per reception. That was much more explosive production than that of the 2016 trio who had 29 receptions for 249 yards, just 8.59 yards per catch. Zamir White, Kenny McIntosh, and James Cook all had more receptions than Nick Chubb did in 2016. Georgia’s backfield is built differently now, and while it’s not comprised of program legends such as Chubb and Michel, it is made up of 5 excellent, experienced running backs that would have the opportunity to compete for the starting job at any other school in the country. Also, the quintet of talented backs returning in 2020 have one major advantage over the group in 2016 and that is the quarterback that they will be sharing the backfield in their return season and quest for a championship.
This is no slight on Jake Fromm. There is no one that appreciates what Fromm was able to accomplish in his college career more than myself. However, there is no comparison in the raw talent level Fromm and JT Daniels possess. Daniels has a much stronger arm and seems to be every bit as capable in the mental aspects of the game as Fromm was. The Georgia offense thrived with Daniels in the line up because of his production and his success primarily. With Fromm, especially in 2017, most the burden was careered by the cast around him. Again, I think Jake Fromm DGD and someone that did a lot for the program, but the quarterback position at Georgia has not been in this good of shape since an experienced Matt Stafford and Aaron Murray were at the helm. This talented group of backs will directly reap the benefits as they are aligned behind and, or beside a quarterback that is not afraid to take shots to the likes of George Pickens, Jermaine Burton, Kearis Jackson, Darnell Washington, Arian Smith, and a slew of others.
Simply put, the backfield situation returning for the Dawgs in 2021 is an embarrassment of riches ladies and gentlemen.