Georgia Bulldogs running back Brian Herrien (35) breaks through the Tennessee line. Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com
Photo: Bob Andres/robert.andres@ajc.com
Photo: Bob Andres/robert.andres@ajc.com

Running back Brian Herrien leads Georgia in ‘Dawg Yards’ 

It’s the amount of yardage a ballcarrier gains after initial contact is made on a given play. All teams keep the statistic, as do quite a few statistical services. But it's an inexact and debatable number, so it's hard to find.

Accordingly, the Bulldogs’ numbers weren’t immediately available Tuesday from any source, and UGA said it couldn't provide it. But we’re left to assume that Brian Herrien leads the team in that particular area.

That's the consensus among his teammates. And he did manage 42 yards after contact after on one particular play against Tennessee on Saturday.

Herrien, a 6-foot, 210-pound senior from Douglasville, probably should have been stopped for a 2-yard loss when he took a handoff from Jake Fromm and ran behind right guard early in the second quarter. He wasn’t. 

After getting hit in the backfield, Herrien bounced the play to the inside, ran through two more arm tacklers, cut outside, made another defender miss with a stutter step and finally was wrestled to the ground by four Vols for a gain of 40 yards to the Tennessee 22 yard-line.


 

It was an important play at an important time. The Bulldogs were trailing Tennessee 14-10 at the moment. They would lead 20-14 by halftime and 43-14 by the end of the game.

Herrien, a backup to star running back D’Andre Swift, led a huge rushing night for Georgia, with 88 yards on 11 carries.

That most of them were “Dawg Yards” was a point of pride for Herrien.

“If the offensive line opens a big hole and you run through it, that’s on the offensive line,” Herrien said before the Bulldogs’ Monday practice. “But Dawg Yards come from you. When you get contact and you break the tackle or you make somebody miss after contact, that’s Dawg Yards. We want the runs like that instead of the open hole. We want to work for a lot of them.”

Coach Kirby Smart and offensive line coach Sam Pittman might disagree, but they love Herrien’s attitude.

While Herrien has always found his way onto the field since showing up as a late addition to the 2016 class – he’s participated in 45 of Georgia’s 47 games since then – he is playing a more prominent role as a senior.

He has 40 carries five games into the season, which puts him on pace to eclipse last year’s total of 50. He is averaging a career-high 6.3 yards per carry.

Meanwhile, he has gotten better in every facet of the game, according to his coaches.

“He works hard,” Smart said. “You can say he’s been patient, but he’s been a contributor in every way. I mean, the guy has played almost every role on every special teams. He's always first in line for stuff.”

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It’s not like Herrien hadn’t proven himself before. He scored on his first carry as a Bulldog, rambling around right end with a toss sweep and beating North Carolina's pursuit to the pylon in the 2016 Chick-fil-A Kickoff. But he  has averaged just 58 rushing attempts per season since then. That breaks down to 4.35 per game.

He would've carried more had he not had Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and now Swift in front of him.

“The Brian that I'm seeing now is the Brian I've always seen,” Smart said. “The guys that are in the NFL now is the reason he didn't play more. Brian has been perfectly capable. And whenever he’s gotten an opportunity, he’s seized it. He's just getting more opportunity now.”

Now that he is, Herrien is loving every minute of it. Entering Saturday’s game against South Carolina, he’s tied with Swift for the team lead with four touchdowns, the most of his career. He’s averaging 8.8 touches per game, a number that rises to 12 per game in SEC contests.

Herrien is a big part of what the Bulldogs are doing on offense this season. He has taken on the role filled primarily by Elijah Holyfield last season.

That'd be the tough back that collects those Dawg Yards.

“I like to bruise, to hit the defense as much as I can,” Herrien said. “Then, as the game goes on, the defense isn’t gonna want to make the same tackles. They’ll kind of get to the side, hesitate a little bit and at that point, then I can just run by them.”

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