Following a long tradition of freakish athletes in the Georgia backfield, can Zamir White play well and take his 2021 NFL Draft stock to the next level?
D’Andre Swift, Nick Chubb, Todd Gurley. The University of Georgia has become a factory for NFL running backs and can look to tack another name to the list with Zamir White. Before beginning, it’s important to know that White is expected to inherit the lead role in the Georgia backfield for the 2020 season (Week 1: 13 rushes for 71 yards & 1 touchdown) as a redshirt sophomore.
He will still have two more seasons of eligibility to expand parts of his game, but currently White looks to be a possible candidate for the 2021 NFL Draft.
At 6-foot, 216 pounds, White fits the physical mold for the conventional workhorse back and still has plenty of physical development ahead of him. White is a physical, interior runner who will punish a defense on 20+ carries per game (ex: Josh Jacobs). Watching film from his 2019 season at Georgia, which totaled 78 carries for 408 yards and 3 touchdowns, the immediate comparison I drew was to LeGarrette Blount.
A true power-back who sticks between the tackles and is always moving north to south. White is a prime example of a downhill runner who takes advantage of a combination of impeccable balance and strength to bounce off of tackles in the hole. Once he is tackled though, White makes sure to be carrying his momentum forward and is able to create crucial additional yardage at the end of each and every carry.
What White is lacking in though is elusiveness, not having bountiful amounts of quickness or agility in his repertoire. With this, White is also relegated to stay inside the tackles until he can show the ability to create his own yardage by bouncing runs outside the hashes.
In an era of football dominated by the star power of air-raid offenses, fewer running backs look to fill the role of backfield-bruiser and instead opt to slim down and get faster on the edges. The value of physically fatiguing an entire defense can never be understated, as perfectly demonstrated in nearly any Patriots win over the Luck-led Colts. Indy simply could not handle the wear and tear of mob-tackling whichever power back played for four straight quarters.
One of White’s individual biggest strengths is hitting the hole at speed and bursting through whichever defenders may stand in his path on the other side. When those holes are clogged and rushing lanes collapse though, what is to be done? White lacks the pure lateral agility and short-distance acceleration to make anything out of these broken plays, nor can he be patient at the line of scrimmage.
Elite running backs who produce with their vision (ex: Le’veon Bell) sit in behind their offensive line while blocks develop. White does not have this same luxury, as he needs to build speed to hit the hole.
If White can get his running start though, he has shown to be able to identify the correct running lane time after time whether its the designed, alternate, or cutback. Granted Georgia has one of the best offensive lines in the country, but regardless, being capable of computing all of the blocking leverages in his vision and selecting the right lane on a consistent basis is outstanding for a player so youthful. White also plays with the mindfulness of a veteran, ensuring he covers the ball with multiple points-of-contact on every tackle and attempt.
Once White has broken through the first-level of defenders and gets out into space, he is able to unleash his 4.4 40-speed and hit the burners. Although he is not uncatchable for secondary players, White is more than fast enough to outdo many pursuit angles, and will likely shrug off the tackler if they reach him anyways. Even with this immense speed, White hasn’t been able to translate it to his receiving game.
With only two receptions for twenty yards throughout the 2019 season, White definitely does not hold any reputation as a receiving back. His style of play would disagree as well. When receiving a swing pass, White looks ‘stuck in the mud’ and struggles to make his own angles. However, when catching a ball on an out route from the backfield, White was able to make the catch and turn his momentum upfield with success.
Workhorse running backs with the ability to shoulder the weight of the offense are always a sight for sore eyes in the NFL. The strategic implications of such a valuable skillset are coveted among coaching staffs and front offices, and White figures to be on-deck. With the new generation of running backs having found their foothold in the NFL, I expect White to do the same and carve out his role within an organization that holds him in high regard.
Player Comparison: Leonard Fournette
One of the best power running back prospects of the 2000s, Fournette had all of the freakish physical measurables to make him a bonified terror in any NFL backfield. Upon arrival in Jacksonville, Fournette posted over 1,000 yards and 9 touchdowns and ascended to the status of a premier running back with his overwhelming physicality and ability to rip off long touchdown runs.
Zamir White shares some of the physical gifts of Fournette and still has potentially three years to continue to grow and improve. Their punishing running styles are enough to call the comparison, but there is also a distinct similarity in athletic ability as well as playstyle.
Neither player has sought out the aerial offense, and prefer to pour their efforts into conquests between the tackles. Leading the Bulldogs backfield as a redshirt sophomore, White will certainly be put to the test and have every chance to showcase his talents.