James Cook-Georgia football-usage
Georgia running back James Cook (4) during the 2021 G-Day Game on Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, April 17, 2021. (photo by Rob Davis)
Rob Davis

Usage of James Cook should be telling about direction of Georgia offense

Georgia has quite a few players on offense that can create mismatches. There are physical marvels like Darnell Washington and Arik Gilbert. There’s Kearis Jackson and Dominick Blaylock, who excel when healthy at finding their way into empty pockets on the field.

There’s speedster Arian Smith, who was just named an All-American for his performance on the Georgia track and field team. But there might not be a more dependable player among those that can put a defense in a bind than running back James Cook.

Just think back to the Alabama game last season, when Cook motioned out wide out of the backfield. He got lined up on Christian Harris, one of the top linebackers in the country entering the 2021 season. Yet the Alabama defender couldn’t keep up with Cook in coverage, as the running back blew past Harris for an 82-yard touchdown.

It’s a good problem to have for offensive coordinator Todd Monken as he looks to get more out of the Georgia offense. One of those ways might be through Cook.

McIntosh filled in as a capable pass catcher in the win over Cincinnati, but no running back has a greater upside coming out of the backfield than Cook. With Daniels and Georgia moving potentially to a more pass-first offense, that could give Cook the opportunity to see an uptick of usage in the passing game.

“I think checkdowns are the most underrated, underappreciated part of the offense,” Daniels said after the Georgia spring game. “If a defense wants to bring vertical pressure and drop back and play soft while playing good coverage, if I have to check it down 10 times in a row, I have to check it down 10 times in a row. There’s no problem with that for me.”

Georgia made it a point to target the running backs in the spring game, with Milton, White and Cook all finishing with at least five receptions. Cook led the group with six catches and 61 yards, with 38 of those coming on a single play.

He also carried the ball seven times for 26 yards in the spring scrimmage.

Cook’s pass-catching ability also helps open things up in the ground game. While he’s not the best runner between the tackles, the threat of him stretches the opposing defense across the field. This does give him the opportunity to run into less crowded boxes.

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