So, I’m curious: how do you feel about this group?
Zamir White (redshirt sophomore): This spot could shake out a number of different ways but right now, based on what we saw in 2019, White seems to be a step ahead when it comes to earning that feature back role. Kirby Smart raved about his physicality in pass protection as a redshirt freshman and that’s big when it comes to getting on the field. White also did what many thought he would in 2019. He got better as the year went on and 2020 might be a year-two leap for him after the two ACL injuries hampered him early in his career.
Kenny McIntosh (sophomore): The former four-star running backs sure showed some flashes during his freshman season. He didn’t get a ton of opportunities but he made the most of them. He had UGA’s longest run of the season, a 62-yard sprint against a tired Arkansas State defense, but he showed speed, balance, power, and vision throughout the year. He’s also an excellent receiver out of the backfield but didn’t get many opportunities to do it as a freshman.
James Cook (junior): UGA fans want to see this guy touch the football more and who could blame them. He doesn’t have a ton of wiggle or make-you-miss ability but he’s a smooth runner who can beat angles with his tremendous speed. This is a huge offseason for him because if he can put on five to 10 pounds of muscle while keeping his speed, it’s going to get him on the field more.
Kendall Milton (freshman): It’s hard to know what to expect from the big freshman. At 6-foot-2, 225 to 230 pounds already, he’s UGA’s biggest running back, but he’s not just a power back. Milton is incredibly shifty and runs with great balance. He doesn’t appear to have breakaway speed but he’ll have a chance to gain a step or two in UGA’s strength and conditioning program. If he catches on quickly and learns how to pass protect, it’s not out of the question for him to have a major role.
My take? Lots of talent there to feel good about. White showed me something as the lead dog in the Sugar Bowl and I think there is validity to that year-two leap after the injuries. McIntosh’s ability to catch the ball likely makes him more useful in Monken’s offense. And I continue to hope that somebody figures out how to utilize Cook’s skill set better than we’ve seen in his first two seasons.
There is a wild card to consider, though.
We have to bring this up every time we talk offense, but Todd Monken’s influence is going to be big here. If he indeed brings more of a passing element to the offense, there may be fewer opportunities for the running backs. The group could also really benefit from more of a balanced attack. Jamie Newman’s presence at quarterback could have a similar effect. He’s going to steal some of those rushing yards for himself but his ability to run the different versions of the read options might open things up for the ball carriers behind and beside him.
I don’t believe in the slightest that Georgia is going to go full LSU this year, but I do expect the offense to be more pass-oriented than it has been in prior seasons under Smart. That would entail a greater emphasis on pass blocking and receiving by the backs. Who’s best in those areas? We’ll find out.