Georgia freshman running back Kendall Milton is finally starting to collect respect for his performance through the first four games of Georgia’s 2020 season.
There’s been so much focus on the offense, especially on the quarterback position and fans are starting to wonder when Milton will finally get his chance at more carries.
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart met with reporters on Wednesday and had nothing but positive things to say about Milton.
“He’s earning some playing time,” Smart said Wednesday during the SEC teleconference. “You saw that the last game—he played earlier than he’s been playing, and he makes really good cuts; he has good vision. Every opportunity he’s gotten, he’s taken advantage of and grown with it.”
Milton only has 21 carries so far this season, but his numbers are impressive considering the amount of limited playing time he’s received.
In each of the last three games, Milton is averaging at least seven yards per carry. He ran for 56 yards on eight attempts against Tennessee and totaled 44 yards on six carries in Georgia’s 41-24 loss against Alabama this past weekend. He had Georgia’s longest run of the season for a running back against the Crimson Tide where he carried the ball for a 24-yard gain.
According to the SEC StatCat, Milton leads the SEC in most rushing yards after contact entering week five with a minimum of 15 attempts.
The former four-star prospect will head into the matchup against Kentucky averaging 6.4 yards per carry and as the team’s second-leading rusher with 134 yards.
Milton’s speed and his ability to break tackles is something that separates him from Georgia’s other running backs. His peripheral vision to see downfield and avoid tacklers is another big attribute that can help him earn more playing time.
Smart said that one thing Milton needs to work on is holding on the ball better, but that’s just something that will be fixed quickly with more in-game reps.
“I’m pleased with what he’s doing,” Smart said. “He’s physical, he’s a downhill runner. I think he’s trying to protect the ball better, and that’s something that all freshmen have to get used to. Obviously the protections in the pass game are something he’s improving upon as well. But I’ve been proud of him.”
Smart said that Milton might have been able to receive more playing time if it wasn’t for hamstring issues that irritated him during fall camp.
“It’s really unfortunate that he hasn’t been able to contribute more, because he had two hamstrings; he had one early in camp, and when we came back, he pulled it again,” Smart said. “He’s such an intense worker. A couple of times, we had to slow him down, because we felt like that was why the hamstring bothered him. We tried to do walkthroughs, and he was going full speed and pulled it.”
Milton will have to battle his brothers in the running back room for more reps, though.
Redshirt sophomore Zamir White leads the team in rushing and is Georgia’s primary back currently. Junior James Cook and sophomore Kenny McIntosh are both guys who have the capability of carrying the team as well.
Still, Smart believes that Milton can make a difference on the field whether it’s at running back or on special teams.
“I’ve been proud of him,” Smart said. “We asked him to do some things on special teams that he’s never done and he’s learning them really quick between punt return and kickoff return. He’s learning how to compete in those drills and that’s carrying over to his confidence at running back.”