UGA Football

Georgia running backs ‘fresh’ from sharing carries

Sony Michel totaled only six carries for 137 yards and two touchdowns against Florida.
Sony Michel totaled only six carries for 137 yards and two touchdowns against Florida. The Telegraph

Sony Michel is posting a career-best in average yards per carry.

Totaling 8.5 yards each time he is handed the ball, Michel is also on pace to post his second career 1,000-yard season on the ground. Yet Michel has been able to do this while toting the ball only 74 times through eight games.

At this rate, Michel is actually looking at posting the fewest carries in a season since he was a freshman. Michel had 64 carries in 2014, 219 in 2015 and 152 in 2016.

Being able to rip off big run plays without seeing the ball as much has been a big lift for this Georgia offense. Georgia’s backs haven’t been worn down with the distribution of carries.

“We feel pretty fresh,” Michel said. “I’d say Coach (Kirby Smart) does a good job of taking care of us, and the whole team, period. We work and he also takes care of us. We’ll probably take the pads off (in practice) sometimes and we’ll still be going fast. I think Coach has a good game-plan when it comes to taking care of our bodies.”

Nick Chubb is in the same boat as Michel. Chubb is leading the SEC in rushing yards with 765 rushing yards but has done this on only 120 carries. He hasn’t had a game in 2017 where he has totaled more than 16 carries. The same applies for Michel.

But Chubb has been the lead back in an offense averaging 284 rushing yards per game. With a counterpart in Michel, and with three quality backups in D’Andre Swift (46 carries, 366 yards), Elijah Holyfield (32 carries, 227 yards) and Brian Herrien (51 carries, 166 yards), Chubb hasn’t been asked to shoulder the burden completely.

“I feel great, I feel better now than I did at the beginning of the season,” Chubb said. “It’s how we’ve been sharing the load and not playing full games also. That also helps. We’re doing a good job taking care of everybody.”

But with the carries divvied up, there hasn’t been much room to post gaudy stats. That has kept both Chubb and Michel out of the Heisman Trophy conversation through the first two-thirds of the season. And with Penn State running back Saquon Barkley (1,272 total yards, 12 touchdowns) and Stanford running back Bryce Love (1,387 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns), it’s unlikely they’ll jump into the race.

Chubb, however, isn’t too concerned. As long as Georgia keeps winning, he is fine with the Heisman going to someone else.

“I don’t want it. They can keep it,” Chubb said with a smile.

Georgia has been able to manage the carries in a rushing attack that is averaging 47.3 rushes as a team per game. With the Bulldogs blowing out opponents in seven of eight games, plenty of fourth quarter touches have gone to Swift, Herrien and Holyfield.

Alabama may be the only other team in the nation that boasts the kind of depth Georgia has at running back.

Right guard Solomon Kindley has been impressed with how the running backs have been able to rotate while getting the same results.

“That’s perfect,” Kindley said. “They’re getting less carries, they’re still doing what they have to do and we’re winning. We’re still productive.”