Georgia’s running game hasn’t reached full potential, yet Smart is pleased with performance

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Georgia’s running game hasn’t reached full potential, yet Smart is pleased with performance

Georgia tailback James Cook (4) during the Bulldogs' game with Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. (Photo by Walt Beazley)
Georgia tailback James Cook (4) during the Bulldogs’ game with Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. (Photo by Walt Beazley)

As a whole, the performance from Georgia’s running backs through three games has been subpar. There have been some great individual performances, but overall the unit has looked bleak at times this season. In fact, Georgia is only averaging 3.8 yards per carry while averaging 172.0 yards per game in 2020, which is an interesting stat.

When one thinks of Georgia, they think of the term ‘Running Back U’ in which the staff and players take pride in representing that name. So far this season, Georgia hasn’t really had many breakout runs of outstanding individual performances. Regardless, the Bulldogs are still racking up yards as a unit on opposing defenses.

Redshirt sophomore Zamir White is Georgia’s leading rusher with 209 yards on 54 carries (3.9 ypc) and four scores. This is supposed to be White’s banner year after recovering from consecutive ACL tears after being eased back into action as D’andre Swift and Brian Herrien had a bulk of the carries last season.

Still, White only has a season-long run of 20 yards, which is the longest on the team for a running back. It doesn’t seem like White displays a lot of confidence when he totes the rock, but he hasn’t displayed that breakaway speed just quite yet.

Regardless, head coach Kirby Smart thinks his unit is doing just fine.

“I’ve been really pleased with the backs, I think protecting the ball is key for us,” Smart said. “They run hard after contact, and break tackles, each one is a little different than the other.

Freshman running back Kendall Milton is the second leading rusher on the team with 15 carries for 90 yards. Against Tennesse, Milton led the team with eight carries for 56 yards. While Milton excelled, White had 22 carries for 50 yards and one score. Sophomore Kenny McIntosh has looked impressive at times this season as he has totaled 80 yards on 17 carries.

Georgia’s running back haven’t been getting a lot of separation and are being eaten up at the line of scrimmage at times, which is blamed on bad offensive line play. Against Arkansas, the offensive line played very inconsistently but has looked better since the season had progressed.

Out of all the backs, Milton and McIntosh have shown the most explosiveness, but freshman Daijun Edwards has shown flashes of brilliance. Then there’s junior running back James Cook, who missed the Tennessee game to due injury.

Georgia running back Kenny McIntosh (6) during the Bulldogs’ game against Tennessee on Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Oct., 10, 2020. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Georgia running back Kenny McIntosh (6) during the Bulldogs’ game against Tennessee on Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Oct., 10, 2020. (Photo by Tony Walsh)

Smart gave an update on Cook on Monday.

“We expect to have him back, we thought he could go in an emergency Saturday, felt good about him being able to go should we have needed Saturday,” Smart said. “We have good depth there right now, so we’re hoping he’ll be 100 percent healthy and ready to go.”

Cook is considered the most dangerous weapon in Georgia’s arsenal, but his skill set hasn’t been fully displayed since arriving on campus. He has the versatility to shake defenders, break tackles, and has that breakaway speed that can cause trouble.

This past weekend, Ole Miss had 647 yards of total offense against Alabama. The Rebels rushed for 268 yards and averaged 4.7 yards per carry against the Crimson Tide’s defense.

Who’s to say Georgia can’t do that?

They can do it easily. Yes. All five running backs in Georgia’s backfield have elite skill, and each has shown flashes of excellence this season, but they will need to have that on display if they want to beat the Crimson Tide.

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Currently an intern for BI, and a junior journalism major at the University of Georgia.