Two former Catholic League football standouts — D’Andre Swift from St. Joseph’s Prep and Mark Webb from Archbishop Wood — will play in the game for the College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. on ESPN.
The two freshmen play for the University of Georgia, which will face the University of Alabama for the national collegiate title. The Bulldogs advanced to the championship game with a thrilling 54-48 double overtime win over the University of Oklahoma in the semifinals at the Rose Bowl.
In the other semifinal, Alabama defeated Clemson University, which was a rematch of last year’s national championship game, 24-6, in the Sugar Bowl to go 12-1 in its 2017 campaign.
Swift, a 5-foot-9, 215-pound running back, has put together a very impressive season. He has rushed for 603 yards on 77 carries while scoring three touchdowns on the ground. He also has 15 receptions for 146 yards and a touchdown.
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has been very pleased with Swift’s play this season, which finds his team with a 13-1 record heading into Monday’s game.
“Yeah, what an unbelievable kid, first of all,” Smart said during the College Football Playoff conference call. “He is from a wonderful family. Their family is unbelievable, great two parents that have really raised him the right way. He’s a very humble kid. He’s come in and embraced the role of being on special teams, of course being a utility back, has done a lot of different things.
“He’s really bright. He’s probably got the best hands on the team. You combine that with a really great low center of gravity, and you’ve got yourself a good ball player. He’s going to be a force to be reckoned with in my opinion in the SEC (Southeastern Conference) for a long time because he’s such a competitive kid and he’s done really well in school, as well.”
ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit has also seen Swift perform at a high level. Herbstreit gave his thoughts on the ESPN conference call.
“Special, special player. Right now you look at that backfield, and of course Nick Chubb and Sony Michel get the majority of the opportunities for a good reason,” Herbstreit said.
“They’ve kind of paid their dues and have an incredible kind of tandem. They’re the best we’ve seen in a long time in college football. And Swift, even though he’s only a freshman, he’s shown to me very similar set of skills, maybe even better out of the backfield catching the football,” he added.
“I think that’s the thing that, as he grows within this offense, you’ve got to remember, he’s right there with Jake Fromm. He’s going to be a big part of their growth, and with the way they’re recruiting,” Herbstreit said.
Herbstreit also emphasized his love for the running back by committee model in both the college and pro levels. He believes it is why Georgia has been successful this season.
“The one thing I personally love is the tandem. I think you see it more in the NFL. We have a one-two punch. I think he keeps both backs fresh as they get into the third and fourth quarter, and it becomes a real strength of Georgia,” he said.
“I would not be surprised to see Swift find another guy to be able to help him the same way. But I see a huge future for him. You talk to people on that team, and even others within that conference,” Herbstreit added.
Swift’s impressive play could make make him a top-5 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
“I talked to Saquon Barkley (Penn State star running back), and he was going on and on about him. We had him on game day on the morning of the first. He just kept talking about Swift and how special he is, and what a great player he’s going to be,” the ESPN analyst explained.
“To hear that from Saquon Barkley among other players I’ve talked to, it tells you it seems to be unanimous that people are excited about the opportunities he’s going to get in the future,” he said.
Gabe Infante, St. Joseph’s Prep head coach, is really excited about Swift playing in the national championship game.
“I’m very proud of him obviously we’ve followed his season very closely,” Infante said. “It’s great to see all his hard work pay off and get a chance to play in the college most important game of the year,” Infante said.
Webb, on the other hand, has been playing defense and on special teams at Georgia. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder has earned some valuable playing experience during the season.
“Yeah, Mark was probably one of the most talented guys we signed in this class early on,” Smart said. “He was making some plays at wide-out early in camp. We lost two corners to injury, and we really had to move him over to corner, and he’s done a great job there.”
“He hasn’t gotten to play as much as I know he would like to, but he’s going to be a really good football player. We are excited about him. He’s playing on special teams. He’s tough. He’s competitive, good tackler. We’re excited about where he’s at,” the coach added.
The game will mark the second time in seven seasons that the national title will be decided between two SEC teams. In 2011 championship, Alabama beat LSU for title.