ATHENS — Dillon Bell playing running back can no longer be classified as just an experiment. It’s something Georgia has used as a valuable component of the Georgia offense.

Bell is now the team’s second-leading rusher, picking up 98 yards on 17 carries. His production at running back trumps what has been able to do at wide receiver this season, where he has 8 receptions for 78 yards.

The sophomore playmaker estimates he spends about half his time at practice repping at running back and half at wide receiver, maybe a 40/60 split now as Kendall Milton eases his way back into the offense.

“I feel like as I practice the role more, my confidence gets higher and higher each time especially with coaches helping me every day at practice and making sure I know the plays,” Bell said. “As I continue to practice the plays, it increases my confidence.”

The Bulldogs have seen Daijun Edwards stabilize the running back position, as he’s rushed for 260 yards in the past three games. Georgia is still without freshman running back Roderick Robinson though, as he continues to recover from an ankle injury.

Playing two positions hasn’t been the easiest task for Bell, who acknowledges he’s made his fair share of mistakes in practice. He’s spending extra time with the coaches at the end of the week to make sure he has all of his plays nailed down so that when he’s called upon during the game, he can deliver.

It helps Bell that he envisions himself in a Deebo Samuel-type role. Bell lights up when asked about the star San Francisco wide receiver. Bell also mentions Ty Montgomery and Cordarrelle Patterson as players he’s tried to model his game after.

In addition to playing the same hybrid role, Bell and Samuel share another connection. Samuel’s college coach was current Georgia wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon.

“He’ll show some clips during the receiver meetings,” Bell said of McClendon. “I talk to him a lot about how Deebo was. He showed me something. I want to meet Deebo one day. I want to ask him that and see what he says. He has talked to me about Deebo before and how his practice habits were at South Carolina.”

Samuel was a First Team All-Pro during the 2021 season for San Francisco. He finished the season with 1,405 receiving yards — Bell’s main priority is to continue to develop as a wide receiver — but added 8 rushing touchdowns and 365 yards.

Bell isn’t the fully-operational weapon that Samuel is for Kyle Shanahan but Kirby Smart recognizes how important Bell is to the Georgia offense.

“Well, he’s got a package, and the package each week they’ve tried to expand it and go piece by piece because we think he’s a very valuable receiver,” Smart said prior to the UAB game. And that’s what he remains is a receiver for us. His package first week was a few plays. His package the next week was a few plays, and we’ve added plays each and every week. Yeah, he does pass pro. He learns our protections. He’s really a very physical player — like, he plays on special teams, strikes people.”

Dillon Bell talks playing running back for Georgia