UGA's First Premium RB Since D'Andre Swift: Potential Volume PIG?
The Dark Lord Bobo is assembling an army bred for one purpose: dominate all human life.
You don't have the guts to be what you wanna be. You need people like me. You need people like me so you can point your f*****' fingers and say, ‘That's the bad guy.’
- Tony Montana, Scarface (1990)
Well, this is slightly awkward, isn’t it? Some College Football diehards will tell you that inter-rival transfers are blasphemous. I would tend to agree, but there are some exceptional circumstances that I can imagine. For instance, when the program you play for sucks, a hardship waiver could be understandable.
Regrettably, it appears that the inevitable is looming, evident to everyone, players included, that Napier's tenure is approaching its end. The 2024 CFB season likely will not conclude without at least one Gator coach looking for a new home. So who could blame the young lad here for jetting out of that hell hole in favour of greener (redder) pastors?
As far as how this whole thing went down, the VP interns who party at Club Babylon in Miami tell me it was a fairly smooth exchange between Etienne and Kirby. Smart asked Etienne if he wanted to get some ice cream with he and his friends (Dell McGee and Todd Hartley), and Etienne obliged. One coke-induced joy ride in a vintage Cadillac Eldorado Custom Convertible later and the deal was sealed.
To be fair, I imagine that after a season like UF experienced in 2023, only a minor bit of proselytizing was required from Kirby and co. to bring Etienne into the fold. The Gators didn’t even have a chance to claim their prized possession back, like that fool, Frank Lopez, when Tony Montana stole his coked-out and critically unfriendly wife, halfway through the movie Scarface.
Well, either way, Etienne is a Dawg now. The portal giveth, and the portal taketh away— one man’s treasure, is another’s trash, etc. etc.
The critical question on our minds now with this move is: does UGA stick with a full-on committee approach in its backfield this season, now that it has (probably) its best RB since D’Andre Swift? Well, I mention Swift for multiple reasons. One is that the running styles are similar between he and Etienne, the other is that I actually think that with Mike Bobo calling plays, and Etienne looking for a one-and-done deal, there could be a path to a season like Swift’s 2018 or 2019 campaigns.
First, let’s take a look at who’s calling plays for the Dawgs, and what the patterns are with respect to the RB position.
Coaching & System
I’ve been vocal in the past about how UGA does things, and that the methods to Kirby’s madness do not lend themselves well to a game like College Fantasy Football. Rotation, rotation, rotation, with a side of more rotation, and then some freshmen sprinkled rotation late for dessert, is usually how things go under Kirby.
His OC, on the other hand, is different. Mike ‘Dark Lord’ Bobo, has a pretty significant bread crumb trail of pigs at the RB position.
I know, I know, you’re probably raising your eyebrow right now— “VP must have hit the rum-infused eggnog exceptionally hard over the holidays”…. “this guy’s lost the plot, like the director of Scarface in the second half of the movie”…
You don’t need to take my word for it, we’re going to go through the patterns collaboratively, and in the end, you can make your own conclusion.
Let’s start with this past season (figure above). It’s true, by the overall numbers, there wasn’t a pig in that backfield. But those of you who played CFF this year know that the aggregate numbers aren’t exactly telling the whole story. In particular, those of you who rostered Daijun Edwards know that he was a strong producer for most of the season. Daijun not only finished the season with a solid PPG average (16.5 in 1PPR formats), but he cleared 16.5 points seven times in 11 games. He went over 20 points four times. All in all, he averaged over 16 touches per game. That’s pretty good, and — with respect to Daijun — he is probably not as talented of a runner as Etienne is (that seems to be the consensus opinion that I’ve seen, at least).
Kendall Milton ascended later in the season, and Edwards’ numbers tailed off. But the point is, the 2023 season isn’t quite as bad as it seems in hindsight from a concentration of volume perspective.
Where things get interesting is in Bobo’s prior history. Anyone remember Tank Bigsby? That’s right—Bigsby’s 1000 yard season in 2021 was under Bobo. Tank finished with a lovely 223 carries for 1099 yards and 10 scores. He also averaged 18.7 touches per game.
In 2020, CFF stud and second ballot VP-HoF’er Kevin Harris steamrolled through the regular season on his way to leading the SEC in rushing. In 10 games, Harris rushed 185 times for 1138 yards and 15 TDs. He caught another 21 passes for 159 yards and a score. Overall, he averaged 20.6 touches per game.
Lets keep it going, shall we?
Prior to coming back to the SEC, Bobo spent four seasons as the HC of MWC program Colorado State (2016-2019). I’ll admit, it wasn’t pretty for the majority of that time. Of the four seasons, he only had one RB clear 200 carries— but(!) at least he had one. Dalyn Dawkins in 2017 rushed 226 times for 1399 yards and eight scores. He also caught 26 passes for 310 yards and a score. All in all, that’s a RB with over 250 total touches by season’s end.
Point being, the situation at RB isn’t as clear as we might have thought on the surface. I may have contributed to this problem in perception with my insistence that UGA players are not draft-able in CFF (unless their name is Brock Bowers). That’s probably true at most positions (QB, WR, TE normally), but RB is a little trickier. That’s because even under Kirby there have been some good CFF seasons. Certainly at the beginning of his reign.
The 2016 season had Nick Chubb carry the ball over 220 times for 1130 yards and eight scores. His teammate— Sony Michel, also toted the pig early and often with 152 carries, but I’d say Chubb was a good CFF gem that year.
The 2017 season was an epic campaign for the Dawgs backfield, there’s no other way to put that (see figure below).
Both Chubb and Michel were extremely efficient, and Chubb was essentially a volume pig, despite splitting carries, due to the run-heavy approach on offence. Not an uncontested volume pig, mind you, but a volume pig nonetheless.
The following season (2018), also saw two rushers clear 1000 yards for UGA. However, the current iteration of UGA Football is not as run-heavy as they were in the past. That’s probably only going to skew even more to the pass with Carson Beck returning. So, I’m more-so honing in on a performance that I observed in the 2019 season from D’Andre Swift.
That year, Swift carried the football less than 200 times (198 to be precise). He also did not clear 10 rushing TDs. But, he was still a good CFF asset due to his efficiency between the tackles and his pass-catching upside.
The Dawgs definitely missed their James Cook/KMac presence on offence this past season. A true dynamic pass-catching back is something they haven’t had since their last Natty season—which admittedly feels just like yesterday (probably because it was…).
In the 2019 campaign, Swift rushed 198 times for 1218 yards. How’s that for efficiency? Well, it’s a 6.2 yards per carry average. Right— totally forgot we have stats to quantify these sorts of things.
Swift accumulated seven scores on the ground, and another via the air. All in all, he caught 24 passes for 216 yards. His touch volume only averages out to just over 15 per game— that’s not good enough for a high-end CFF RB, but his 1434 total yards in 14 games averages to over 100 per contest. His TD production let him down, but that is a fickle stat, and hard to predict ahead of time.
So what do I envision as the optimistic case? Etienne probably won’t finish the season with 200 or more carries. Usually, that would be where I would take my leave. However, given how efficient this offence has been in the past, and how efficient it could be in 2024, there’s enough reason to continue toying with the idea of drafting Etienne. I don’t forsee Etienne finishing as 20+ PPG RB in 2024. But all things considered, 17+ PPG feels within range. He’ll be capped by the heavy rotation Kirby likes, but the Dawgs are also going to be in a lot of competitive games in 2024 also.
Trevor Etienne — 5’9, 205
An interesting stat to keep in mind with this analysis: in 2023, UGA was 3rd in yards before contact as a team, but 10th in yards after contact in the SEC. The first stat is an offensive line metric, the second is more so a RB assessment. UGA’s backs weren’t breaking tackles regularly. On the other hand, UF was 10th in yards before contact as a team, but 3rd in yards after contact in the SEC. That’s pretty impressive for the RBs, not just Etienne. That means they were — on average — getting hit earlier than most other teams’ RBs, but breaking more tackles and getting forward still. Etienne isn’t the only UF back that would have contributed to that, but he would have been a big part of that.
As far as his actual production, Etienne averaged 15.4 PPG in 2023 as a sophomore, and 9.7 PPG in 2022 as a freshman. In the 2023 season, he rushed 131 times for 753 yards and eight scores, and caught all 21 of his 21 targets for 172 yards and another score. The receiving usage is going to be key in this player’s profile for 2024. It will be the make-or-break factor in whether or not he’s a CFF stud(ish), or a dud. The fact that he caught all of his targets is confidence-inspiring. He even wore the #7 at UF like Swift did at UGA— coincidence? Hmm, my spidy senses are tingling, so I think not…
Generally, the only RBs I consider in standard re-draft formats that I play in are guys that I think can legitimately net me a 20+ PPG average. There are exceptions, and as a I play more and more CFF, the more I remind myself that it’s still useful to have guys who can go on a strong stretch in-season, without finishing as a 20+ PPG player.
In years past, I wouldn’t have thought too hard about Etienne. Daijun Edwards’ season this year changed my thought process a little bit, and looking back at Bobo’s track record also put me on notice. I really did not know he had both Bigsby and Harris in 2021 and 2020, respectively. Kevin Harris was legendary for CFF squads that season (the OGs will never forget the Ole Miss game), so I’m going to make some allowances based off faith here.
One important thing to note is that the biggest reason why Edwards got leaned on this past year was because of injuries. If Milton and/or Branson Robinson are healthy all season, do we see that kind of volume funnelled through one runner? Reasonable minds would have a hard time saying yes. I wouldn’t say yes, at least. Nonetheless, the situation was what it was, and Bobo’s RB1 was rostered on one of my teams for a long stretch in 2023.
(Ernie) “No, but I would like you to give me a concrete assessment of where Etienne stands for you, VP.”
No problem, Ernie, we’re just getting to that now. I think Etienne is a late round type of player. One that you could take a flyer on. I wouldn’t expend any valuable resources to acquire him.
Now, who’s to say anything of what I say in this article will be correct, but my ‘optimistic’ case scenario is Etienne nets around 17 PPG by season’s end, so even if he hits he’s not an elite CFF RB in my estimation. My way-too early range of rounds would probably be 11 or higher for Etienne. Will reassess come the summer though, things may change.
(Ernie) “Thanks, VP. One more thing, why is Mike Bobo called Dark Lord Bobo?”
Good question, Ernie. One of my associates, Sosa, in Colombia, had the same curiosity. This article probably has the answer. See you again soon…
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