ATHENS, Ga. — Zamir White's knee injury takes some of the mystery out of Georgia's attempt to reload at tailback after losing Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to the NFL.
D'Andre Swift, already the favorite to take the first snap in No. 3 Georgia's opener against Austin Peay on Sept. 1, now is even more important to the Bulldogs.
Swift had success last year, when he ran for 618 yards as a freshman in a complementary role behind Chubb and Michel. Now Swift must prove he can handle a bigger share of the carries.
"It's great," Swift said after practice Tuesday. "I've got to show a lot to people. I've got a little bit of hype behind me so I've got to show people what I can do."
White, one of the biggest names in Georgia's top-ranked freshman class , was expected to push Swift, Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien and possibly eventually start this season.
Instead, White suffered his second serious knee injury in less than a year and is expected to miss the season.
White was still wearing a protective brace on his surgically repaired right knee, hurt late in his senior season in high school, when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Saturday's scrimmage. White was working on a punt coverage team and was not hit when he suffered the injury, according to coach Kirby Smart.
Georgia is left with four scholarship players at tailback including freshman James Cook, who has impressed teammates with his speed in practice.
"Georgia is known as RB U. so our coaches will figure it out," said Holyfield, the son of former boxing champion Evander Holyfield.
Holyfield (5-11, 215) is a strong, punishing runner who, like his father, has good balance and is difficult to bring down.
Swift (5-9, 215) has more big-play potential, as he showed with his 64-yard touchdown run in Georgia's Southeastern Conference championship game win over Auburn last season. But he never had more than 10 carries in a game.
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Swift says he's not worried about possibly tiring in a game due to Georgia's depth at the position, even after losing White.
"We're so deep at the position," Swift said. "When I come out and Elijah comes out we're not going to lose anything at all."
When asked how Swift has grown into a possible lead role this year, Holyfield just smiled.
"Well, Swift has been good since he got here," Holyfield said. "He hasn't had to. I mean, he's gotten better in other aspects of his game, becoming a more complete back. I think he's going to be very ready to step into that role and be awesome."
Outside linebacker D'Andre Walker says Georgia's running game won't suffer a letdown.
"I don't think it really changes," Walker said. "I feel like they recruit some of the similar guys each year. They are all very fast and they don't mind running you over."
"We have a great group of guys here," he said, adding "I think we'll have a great year at running back."
Walker compared Cook, the younger brother of Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, with Michel. "But a little bit faster," he said.
Chubb and Michel are significant losses after ranking second and third, respectively, behind only Herschel Walker on the Bulldogs' career rushing list.
"Last year when we were behind Sony and Nick we'd prepare like we were going to start the game," Holyfield said. "Now that it's our time, we'll be prepared."