ATHENS — If you want to know how to get a Georgia football player to smile, ask him about James Cook.
Junior nose guard Julian Rochester and senior linebacker Juwan Taylor were the latest Bulldogs’ defenders to gush over the freshman running back from Miami.
Last week, inside linebacker Monty Rice tabbed him “Little” Cook. It was likely a nod to Cook’s older brother, Minnesota Vikings tailback Dalvin Cook.
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Georgia tailback D’Andre Swift heaped great praise on his “real smooth” stablemate. D’Andre Walker said Cook was like Sony Michel, “but a little bit faster.”
Taylor seemed to be on the same page this week in the Monday press conference leading into the 3:30 p.m. season-opening game against Austin Peay on Saturday.
“Oh man, James Cook, he’s really different, he’s really fast, very athletic, he’s a freakish guy,” said Taylor, one of the faster linebackers in the SEC and a former South Florida High School standout himself.
“It’s hard to cover him man on man. He’s a great competitor, I have a lot of respect for him.”
It says a lot for a true freshman who didn’t report until July to have earned the respect of a senior veteran like Taylor.
But Taylor said it took only a couple of runs from Cook in practice to see No. 3-ranked Georgia had something special.
“A couple of runs in practice he broke on us on defense,” Taylor said, “and I was like, ‘wow, this kid is fast.’ “
Bulldogs nose guard Julian Rochester, like man of the other Georgia defenders, struggled to find the right words to describe Cook.
“He’s a different style of running back for Georgia that’s been very successful with this big offensive line opening up holes, and when he gets to the second level, with all this swift, swift, it’s really amazing,” Rochester said, his ‘swift, swift’ comments seemingly indicating quick moves.
Rochester said Cook is, quite literally, a game changer.