ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart sees what everyone else is seeing in the Bulldogs’ backfield, and from the sounds of it he can’t wait to see more of Kendall Milton, too.
“Yeah, he’s earning some playing time,” Smart said on the SEC Coaches Teleconference on Wednesday.
“I think you saw that probably last game, he played earlier than he has been playing, he’s made some really good cuts, he’s got good vision,” Smart said. “Every opportunity he has gotten, he’s taken advantage and grown with it.”
The SEC rushers who average the most rushing yards after contact entering Week 5 – min 15 att
1. K. Milton 4.29
2. I. Spiller 4.03
3. D. Pierce 4.00
4. J. Emery 3.95
5. B. Robinson 3.94
6. T. Bigsby 3.64
7. T. Badie 3.60
8. M. Davis 3.44
9. AJ Rose 3.43
10. C. Rodriguez 2.93
— SEC StatCat (@SEC_StatCat) October 22, 2020
Milton had 6 carries for 44 yards in the 41-24 loss to Alabama last Saturday, including a 24-yard run that ranks as the longest by a Georgia tailback this season.
Zamir White leads Bulldogs’ rushers with 64 carries for 266 yards, with Milton ranking second with 21 carries for 134 yards. Kenny McIntosh has 19 carries for 92 yards.
McIntosh also ranks third in the nation in kick return average, but Smart indicated he suffered what’s believed to be a minor knee injury in the loss to Alabama, leaving his status somewhat questionable during the bye week.
Smart, meanwhile, indicated Milton could have even more carries this season if not for being slowed by a hamstring injury.
“It’s really unfortunate he hasn’t been able to contribute more before now, because he had a hamstring, he had two hamstrings,” Smart said. “He had a hamstring early in camp, and when he came back he pulled it again. He’s such an intense worker that a couple times we had to slow him down because we felt that’s why the hamstring bothered him”
Smart said that Milton’s injury issue is more due to hard work than not loosening up enough.
“We’d be trying to do walk-throughs and he was going full speed, and he pulled it,” Smart said. “But I’ve really been pleased with what he’s been able to do.
“He’s a physical downhill runner, I think he’s trying to really protect the ball better, and that’s something all freshmen have to get used to. And obviously the protection in the pass game is something he has improved upon as well.”
Indeed, Milton had an 11-yard carry against Tennessee that took nine Vols to hit him before he finally went down.
“I’ve been proud of him,” Smart said. “We asked him to do some things in special teams that he’s never done, and he’s learning them really quick.
“Between punt return and kickoff return, he’s learning how to compete in those drills, and that’s carrying over to his confidence at running back.”
From the sounds of things Milton figures to get even more work when No. 4 Georgia plays at Kentucky at noon on Oct. 31.