football Edit

Analysis: Taking a look at how deep backfield could be utilized

Rare is the season when each and every one of a team’s scholarship running backs return for a second consecutive year.

In the advent of the NCAA transfer portal, this is especially true. But not at Georgia; at least not in the running back room.

All five of the Bulldogs’ scholarship running backs were ranked as either four- or five-star recruits coming out of high school, giving Kirby Smart and offensive coordinator Todd Monken one of the deepest units in the nation.

The question is, how does Monken plan to distribute the ball?

In Smart’s previous years, it’s definitely been about sharing the wealth. When Smart had Nick Chubb and Sony Michel his first two seasons, the numbers were remarkably consistent: Chubb carried the ball 224 times in 2016, 223 in 2017. Michel? He rushed 152 times in 2016, 156 in 2017.

Georgia’s 2018 campaign saw the most equal time share, with D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield receiving 163 and 159 carries, respectively.

In the Bulldogs’ most recent seasons, there has been somewhat of a shift.

The 2019 season saw the biggest discrepancy in carries, with Swift almost doubling Brian Herrien’s attempts, 196-103.

Last year, the percentage of touches was similar. Zamir White's 144 carries were almost 100 more than Kenny McIntosh with 47, James Cook with 45, followed closely by Daijun Edwards and Kendall Milton with 37 and 35, respectively.

Georgia’s final snap count totals told a more complete story.

White took 244 snaps, followed by Cook (180), McIntosh (118), Milton (58), and Edwards (58).

Of course, some of those numbers are somewhat skewed by the fact both McIntosh and Milton missed time with injuries. McIntosh missed a pair of games with a knee injury, while Milton sat out three games after injuring his MCL against Florida.

So, what might we be looking at this fall? All five backs are healthy. McIntosh, we understand, has recovered from the shoulder injury that kept him out of spring practice. Milton, too, is 100 percent.

Having a full complement of backs will present Monken with some interesting opportunities. It’s also one of the reasons we’ve seen Lovasea Carroll switch to cornerback. The Bulldogs are that deep.

It’s also why you can probably expect Monken to utilize four backs as part of the rotation.

White, who has spent the offseason getting into even better shape than he’s previously been in, still figures to get the most touches. However, he’s going to have a lot of company.

We’ll start with Cook, whose versatility as a receiver will continue to allow him to be used in a variety of different ways. You’ll see the shifty senior utilized as a receiver, both in the slot and out of the backfield.

Cook is going to be a big part of what the Bulldogs do offensively, although his actual carries could take a bit of a hit. That’s because of the emergence of Milton.

At 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds, the former five-star was really starting to emerge before suffering his injury against Florida. It’s not going to be a surprise whatsoever to see Milton’s carries take a significant jump, and as a result, post some impressive rushing totals of his own.

McIntosh, meanwhile, is just as versatile as Cook when it comes to catching the football. And at 210 pounds, he's the bigger of the two.

We saw in Georgia’s win over Cincinnati in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl how McIntosh caught three straight passes from JT Daniels during the Bulldogs’ game-winning drive. McIntosh is a player coaches depend on in crunch time, and he’ll receive plenty more opportunities come fall.

That leaves Edwards, who showed he can be just as tough a runner as any of Georgia’s aforementioned backs, but might not receive as many chances, simply because of the depth ahead of him.

His time will come.

Hopefully, injuries will not become part of the autumn equation for the Bulldogs. But Georgia fans should be comforted by the fact the team’s depth at running back is as good as it has ever been under Smart.

Zamir White (3) and Kendall Milton (22) are just two of the key pieces Georgia has at running back.
Zamir White (3) and Kendall Milton (22) are just two of the key pieces Georgia has at running back. (Matt Stamey//UGA Sports Communications)