ATLANTA — The extent of D’Andre Swift’s shoulder injury had been a mystery leading up to the SEC championship game.
Swift exited the Georgia Tech game on Nov. 30, and head coach Kirby Smart called it a left shoulder contusion in his postgame comments. Throughout the week that followed, Smart insisted that Swift had been fine in practice.
“He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do,” Smart said during his Friday press conference. “I’m excited to see him go play, and we’ll have the expectation that he’ll play well.”
But from Georgia’s first possession against LSU in its 37-10 loss on Saturday, it was obvious Swift wasn’t at full capacity. And his own postgame comments contradicted his coach’s statements. Swift said he hadn’t been well all week.
“A lot of pain,” Swift said of his shoulder. “Really couldn’t run for real, couldn’t swing my arm. I didn’t have motion in my arm.”
He said the offensive game plan involved running between tackles to get the ball in space and protect his shoulder. But the game ended with little production from Georgia’s leading rusher, as he carried the ball only twice for 13 yards and caught three receptions for 18 yards.
Smart said Georgia’s game plan didn’t involve a heavy run game to begin with.
“We didn’t come out with a mentality of running the ball down your throat today,” Smart said. “If you thought we tried to do that, that probably wasn’t a good view on the game. We thought we had to score points to win the game.”
Swift is Georgia’s leading running back in every category with 1,216 yards on 195 attempts and seven touchdowns. He averaged 93.54 yards per game and broke the 100-yard mark in five of the Bulldogs’ 12 regular season games.
Without Swift’s production, Georgia wasn’t able to establish a consistent rushing game and was held to a season-low 61 yards on 25 carries.
Senior Brian Herrien took eight carries for 24 yards, Georgia’s top mark on an unproductive night. He acknowledged the extent of Swift’s shoulder injury and said it played a role in Swift’s inability to break out against the Tigers.
“I feel like if he had his shoulder healthy, he would’ve been able to make bigger plays than he had,” Herrien said.
After Herrien, Georgia’s next best rusher was James Cook, who gained 23 yards on five carries. Zamir White contributed 5 yards on five attempts.
Even after the Georgia ground attack — which had been heavily reliant on Swift all season — failed to produce against LSU’s defense, Smart held onto the belief that Swift’s shoulder injury wasn’t a serious matter.
“As far as I know, he was fine,” Smart said. “Toward the end of the game, we ended up holding him out once the outcome was decided, but he seemed fine to me.”
Swift, a junior with two consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons in Athens, could have played his last game in the Georgia uniform. He has the option to declare for the NFL draft and elect to sit out of Georgia’s bowl game.
If Swift leaves, the Bulldogs will miss him.