With a plethora of recent running backs that have been successful in both the college and NFL, many regard Georgia as “RBU” and run-game coordinator Dell McGee said his players take that title with honor.
McGee met with reporters via Zoom on Wednesday and discussed Georgia’s reputation for producing some of the best running backs in college football. He also said that this current group wears that badge proud, and that it is one of the key motivators heading into the 2020 season.
“It’s a very, very high standard in our room that was established long before me being here,” McGee said. “Our kids kind of take that personally, and they show it every single day with the way they prepare and practice. We as coaches always try to make practice a lot harder than games. If you can make it through practice, day in and day out, you’re going to be really prepared for a game.”
McGee knows that replacing D’Andre Swift will not be easy, but he said his current group of guys are willing to take on the challenge.
“I feel like all of our guys are putting forward great effort, on the field and in the classroom,” Edwards said. “Zamir [White] and James [Cook] have provided a lot of leadership to the room, and they provide a lot of experience. They are definitely two guys that complement one another from the standpoint of understanding the offense and learning the offense the fastest. They’ve kind of propelled themselves in that regard.”
Georgia’s roster features three other running backs: Kenny McIntosh, Kendall Milton and Daijun Edwards. McGee said those guys are ready to make their names known as well.
“We’re still in the process of developing and seeing where all the guys are going to fit,” McGee said. “So, nothing has been decided yet. But I really like our room. Dealing with Covid, everyone must be ready to play because we never know what is going to happen. And that’s my process, making sure all my guys are ready to run the football and protect the quarterback when their number is called.”
He also added that every guy is willing to do what it takes for the team to succeed.
McGee used to coach at Carver High School in Columbus, and developed quite a reputation for producing his own quality running backs. More recently, he coached former UGA running back Isaiah Crowell.
Georgia has always been a program with great running backs, and if recent history repeats itself, then this year’s crop will go on to be great.
Back in 2012, the freshman tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall combined for a total of 2,144 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns. In 2014, two more talented backs joined that backfield as freshman Nick Chubb and Sony Michel burst onto the scene. In 2017, that duo both ran for over 1,000 yards (Chubb – 1,345 yds, Michel – 1,227 yds) and combined for 31 scores. Swift and Elijah Holyfield both ran for over 1,000 yards each in 2018.
“It’s definitely a good thing—a philosophy of ours. We feel like the more guys we can play to keep our running backs fresh, they’re able to be more explosive, have less mental breakdowns, and they’re able to assess the game, stay involved in the game, and execute at a high level when their number is called,” McGee said. “It definitely benefits us having a multitude of guys, and, like I said, reliability and accountability are a big factor. I feel greatly confident with this group.”
McGee added that White and Cook are starting to become more vocal and are stepping up to be leaders in the position room.
“They’re kind of mimicking what they got when they were freshmen, when Swift and Elijah [Holyfield] were the older guys in the room,” McGee said “They’re taking the young guys under their wing, showing them how to take care of their bodies, how to prepare and be the best they can be the next day as far as film study is concerned—just all the little tidbits and how to be successful on an everyday basis.”
He said that White is especially taking over that leadership role. The North Carolina native has overcame so much in the past couple of years that even McGee has become inspired by him.
“First of all, Zamir is a great kid and had some tough challenges throughout his life. He’s been an overcomer, and that’s the expectation,” McGee said. “He’s never down, he’s always very upbeat. His hard work has been recognized by his peers, along with the coaching staff. Just much love for Zamir and the way he has embraced two knee injuries. That’s a very tough, tough feat to overcome, but he’s a spiritual person and has all the faith in the world in our training staff. He has faith in himself as well, so expect a lot of big things out of him this year.”
He also explained that he thinks McIntosh, Milton and Edwards will get their time as well.
As for Milton, he commented that even though he’s dinged up, that he isn’t out of it for good.
“He’s not out. He’s been doing everything. As far as the development, we’re just making sure we get the correct reps in,” he said. “He’s missed certain parts of practice.”
In the meantime, Edwards has caught McGee’s eye.
“He was a great high school running back, started for four years in the toughest division in Georgia and was very productive at Colquitt County,” McGee said. “He can catch the football, he can run in between the tackles; he has enough speed and burst to make explosive plays. We love everything about Daijun and his work ethic.”
McGee knows that his group will continue to be on the grind as the season goes on.
“Expectations are not about statistics for me. It’s more about wins and losses and how we can be successful,” McGee said. “It’s mental errors, making sure we’re taking care of our quarterback and protecting the football. If we do those things, the individual accolades will come. If that happens, it happens, but that’s not the big picture of things. It’s more about taking care of the football, protecting our quarterback, and playing with great effort.”