It’s subtle, for sure, but it seems as though some of Kirby Smart’s optimism regarding D’Andre Swift’s availability for the SEC Championship game may have dissipated by Monday.
After Swift was sidelined with a ‘shoulder contusion’ during last Saturday’s win at Georgia Tech, Smart said “he’ll be fine” for this week’s game against No. 2 LSU. Smart was, of course, asked about Swift’s status again on Monday.
“We’re hopeful that he’s going to be able to play,” Smart said, without elaboration.
It’s hard to tell whether that assessment is truly any different than what Smart said following the Tech game. Swift left with 9:32 remaining in the third quarter after losing his second fumble of the game.
Curiously, Swift neither was hit nor landed on his left shoulder during the tackle by Tech linebacker David Curry. Yet Swift had the left shoulder wrapped in ice packs as he sat on the Georgia bench the rest of the game.
Smart indicated afterward Swift has been “dealing with an issue” with his shoulder much of the season.
During an SEC Championship teleconference call with reporters on Sunday night, Smart was reminded of a similar injury situation with Auburn star running back Kerryon Johnson in 2017. Johnson aggravated a shoulder injury in a season-ending win over Alabama and was subsequently pronounced as “fine” by coach Gus Malzahn in the days leading up to a rematch against Georgia in the SEC Championship.
However, Johnson did not seem “fine” the second time around against the Bulldogs. He finished with 44 yards on 13 carries.
Smart dismissed the comparison.
“Yeah, I don't think it's the same scenario,” he said Sunday. “I think I expect D'Andre to be fine.”
There is no way to be certain how much work Swift is getting in practice versus training-room rehabilitation this week because the Bulldogs’ practices are closed to media viewing, as they have been for the last half of the season.
Suffice it to say, Swift will likely be at least some degree below 100 percent against LSU. That’s an issue considering he is averaging 100.4 yards rushing a game after leaving the Tech contest with 73.
But Smart expressed confidence in the rest of the Bulldogs’ running backs – senior Brian Herrien, sophomore James Cook, redshirt freshman Zamir White and true freshman Kenny McIntosh – should they need to take over or be utilized more than usual against LSU. The Tigers come into the game ranked fourth in the SEC against the run at 124.5 yards per game.
“Very confident,” Smart said of the other backs. “Zamir’s had some good games and gotten to play more and more. We're trying to find ways to use him. James is the same way, and Kenny (McIntosh) got to go in the game and did some good things the other day. So I feel very comfortable about the other guys.
“Obviously, Swift has a different skill set probably as a total package than all of them, and we want him to be in there. But we have got some depth at that position that we can use guys.”
Georgia is fifth in the SEC in rushing at 200.2 yards per game. After Swift, Herrien leads the way with 42.4 yards per game, followed by White (28.3), McIntosh (14.8) and Cook (12.8).
There also is talk of the Bulldogs deploying Cook more as a receiver since they’re short at that position.
“The last couple weeks we have given him a few more carries,” Smart said of the 5-11, 190-pound sophomore from Miami. “It boils down, really, to us saying, ‘all right, who are the best football players to give us the best opportunity to win?’ And he's at a position where it's more shared. To be a wideout and go out there and play wideout, that's not a natural position for him.”
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