Kirby Smart on Georgia’s running back situation

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Kirby Smart on Georgia’s running back situation

Georgia tailback Zamir White (3) during the Bulldogs' game with Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. (Photo by Walt Beazley)
Georgia tailback Zamir White (3) during the Bulldogs’ game with Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. (Photo by Walt Beazley)

Even though it wasn’t pretty, Georgia pulled out a 27-point victory this past Saturday behind the defense and third string quarterback Stetson Bennett.

A lot of focus seems to be on Georgia’s quarterback battle heading into this week’s matchup against Auburn, but there are other questions surrounding the offense. One of the many problems this past weekend was that Georgia’s running backs couldn’t seem to burst through the line of scrimmage to get downfield.

Against the Razorbacks, the Bulldogs only averaged 2.9 yards per carry. Which isn’t great from a statistical point of view considering Georgia has one of the most talented running back rooms in the country.

During his Monday afternoon press conference, head coach Kirby Smart addressed the situation.

“It’s a combination of both [the running backs and blocking]. I thought there were a couple things,” Smart said. “The first thing, to have a great run, you have to have good box counts, you have to get a hat on a hat, you have to make people miss. I think all of our backs have the ability to make people miss, but they have to do it at a higher level. We have to block much better on the second level on terms of our receivers, cut off blocking, and turning a couple 10 to 12-yard runs into bigger runs.”

Smart said that there was missed opportunities, and compared Saturday’s performance to how hard it is to have a high-level rushing game in the SEC.

“There were some missed opportunities there, and we have to move up front a little better. At the end of the day, that’s what it takes to be able to run the ball,” he said. “Look across our league—you show me a team that is running the ball really, really well and efficiently; it’s hard to do in our league. You have to be able to throw and catch the ball, and you have to be able to score points.”

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

Zamir White and James Cook struggled to produce yardage in the first half. Even when the offense got in rhythm, Cook still scrapped for positive yards. He fumbled on the opening drive of the first half and couldn’t break tackles in the second half.

White led the Bulldogs with 71 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown. As the game went on, it seemed like he started to get more confident with each carry. His 20-yard burst in the second half was the longest run of the day, and on that play it seemed like he was his old self again.

Cook only managed to total 26 yards on seven carries, and Kenny McIntosh had three attempts for six yards. Late in the game, freshman tailbacks Kendall Milton and Daijun Edwards each got one carry for four yards.

Still, the Bulldogs rushed for 121 yards total as a team. The lack of explosive plays plagued the Bulldogs last year, which could be a foreshadowing of what’s to come if things repeat itself throughout the season in 2020.

Georgia will face a much more talented defense this upcoming Saturday in No. 8 Auburn. The Tigers’ defense held Kentucky’s Kavosiey Smoke to just 62 yards in their 29-13 win this past weekend.

“There were some holes, some things there that backs didn’t necessarily miss. Sometimes the snap was bad. And if you have a bad snap and it gets you off direction, you can’t have that. It takes a cumulative effect of everybody doing their job, and if one guy is off—one receiver doesn’t cut off a safety, and he turns what would be a 20-yard gain into a five-yard gain,” Smart said. “If the snap is off, you go back and look: there were a couple times the snap was just off key, and it brings the quarterback offline, then it brings the running back offline.”

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