Georgia football running back Zamir White ‘excited to be the guy’ against Arkansas
Most Georgia fans have been waiting all offseason for Saturday’s game against Arkansas. Georgia running back Zamir White has been waiting even longer, as it’s finally his time to be the lead running back at Georgia.
When White committed to Georgia in June in 2017 as the top running back prospect in the 2018 recruiting class, there was the expectation that he would be the next star in the ‘RBU’ pipeline. But two ACL injuries slowed that trek.
After a strong, and long, offseason White seems ready to take up the mantle that NFL running backs like Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb and D’Andre Swift have held.
“I think he’s excited to be the guy,” Jamaree Salyer said. “To take more handoffs. He’s been really focused every day. When you meet him in the hole you have to be ready. Even for us, you gotta make sure you move someone out of the way otherwise you’ll get moved by him.”
Working behind Swift and Brian Herrien last season, White ran for 408 yards while carrying the ball 78 times. His most impressive game came in the Sugar Bowl against Baylor, where he ran for 92 yards against the best defense in the Big 12.
Since that game, Salyer isn’t the only teammate to notice a difference in the way White has prepped and played.
“Just the way he runs. The way he runs has changed,” Nakobe Dean said. “He seems more comfortable out there. More fluid, more of a stronger back than he was last year if you ask me. I’m excited to see him play.”
White and fellow third-year running back James Cook figure to be a big part of Todd Monken’s new offense this season.
Quarterback: The last time Georgia coach Kirby Smart spoke to the media, he gave an update on JT Daniels and where his knee injury is at.
It was more of the same from the Georgia head coach.
“At this point, no, JT has not been medically cleared yet,” Smart said. “We’re hopeful he’s able to clear here in the next couple of days. It’s one of those things that’s really beyond our control right now.”
With Daniels’ status still undecided, it is becoming more and more clear that D’Wan Mathis is likely to get the start for the Bulldogs.
Wide receiver: With the Bulldogs bringing in five wide receivers as a part of the 2020 class, there’s been a lot of wonder as to what they might bring to the offense, especially early on in the season.
This week we got a good scouting report on three of them, with cornerback Eric Stokes discussing Jermaine Burton and Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint.
“He always calls me out,” Stokes said of Burton. “In any little competition I know he’s calling me out because he knows I’m going to push, talk my smack, do everything to him to make him better as a person.”
“I’m going to talk my smack to him too to where I’m pushing him even more,” Stokes said of Rosemy-Jacksaint. “He always says, ‘make me better, make me better.’ So I’m going to do everything in my power to make you better.”
Burton and Rosemy-Jacksaint both seem to have the inside track to seeing the field first as both have excelled at times during camp.
Smart also shared his thoughts on Ladd McConkey, the lowest-rated wide receiver signee. But don’t let that recruiting ranking define what you think of the wide receiver from Chatsworth, Ga.
“He’s fast. He’s athletic. He’s got really good hands, and he comes to work every day,” Smart said. “He’s a guy who has worked some of our scout team, and he competes. He blocks.”
“He’s a lot more physical than you would expect a guy his size to be, and he’s gotten bigger since he’s been here. I’m excited about him and his development.
Tight end: While Daniels’ status is still uncertain for Saturday, it looks like the Bulldogs will almost certainly be without tight end graduate transfer Tre McKitty following a knee injury he suffered during camp.
“He’s doubtful for Saturday,” Smart said. “He’s up and running and moving around well. He got on the AlterG and been able to run some. We don’t think he’s going to make it in time for Saturday.”
The hope for McKitty is that he returns for the Auburn game on Oct. 3. With McKitty almost certainly out, look for John FitzPatrick to get the start. It will also be worth watching how involved 6-foot-7 freshman Darnell Washington is involved at the position.
Offensive line: Salyer knows what kind of shoes he has to fill at the left tackle spot, given one of his best friends is the guy he’ll be replacing in Andrew Thomas.
The two both attended Pace Academy in high school and trained with each other over the summer.
And while Thomas is now blocking the likes of Khalil Mack, the two still find time to catch up and talk about how things are going.
“We talk all the time—probably once or twice a week. We just check in on each other,” Salyer said. “As far as advice, he pretty much gave me everything he had as far as over quarantine and working out. I am excited to see where he goes.”
Salyer has just one career start and that came in the Sugar Bowl at right tackle. With Salyer manning the left tackle spot, expected Justin Shaffer to get the start at left guard, Trey Hill at center, Ben Cleveland at right guard and Owen Condon at right tackle. Warren Ericson will also likely see the field as a strong sixth man option off the bench.
Defensive line: Smart wasn’t all that happy about Georgia’s representation on the Preseason All-SEC lists. On Tuesday you could sense the frustration when discussing how only two Georgia defenders made the first team on the coaches ballot.
I didn’t think we had a lot of preseason hype with our defense in terms of All-SEC guys,” Smart said. “I would think that all the better defenses are somewhere else because I don’t know that we put but two guys maybe? I don’t know. Richard [LeCounte] and Jordan [Davis] were the only two I noticed on the accolades.
“For us to have all the great players, they’re certainly not getting recognized that way.”
When the media ballot came out on Wednesday, a third player was named to the First Team in defensive end Malik Herring. Come the end of the season, this group could be very well represented on a number of lists as we’ve yet to mention someone like Travon Walker or Jalen Carter, who might be the most impactful freshman on the team.
Outside linebacker: Jermaine Johnson will be seeing a familiar face on Saturday when he takes the field. No, it isn’t former Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman or former Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks.
It’s his former JUCO teammate Rakeem Boyd. The two were teammates of Independence Community College, as featured on Netflix’s Last Chance U.
Boyd is the most dangerous offensive weapon for Arkansas. The running back ran for 1,133 yards last season and had a higher per-game average than Swift.
“I was just excited with the mere fact that I know what it took for both of us to get where we are. I was just excited to meet each other on this stage,” Johnson said. “I’m just excited to play him because I know what it took for him to get where he is and for me to get where I am. So I’m just excited for us to compete on this stage.”
Johnson and the rest of Georgia’s standout outside linebackers will be tasked with slowing Boyd and the Arkansas offense. Johnson is in his second year with Georgia and looking to take on a bigger role after a strong August and September.
Inside linebacker: There’s been a lot of hype around sophomore Nakobe Dean and what he might be able to do this season in a larger role on the Georgia defense.
But lost among the hype might be that Dean likes to take a lot of his cues from the senior leader at the position in Monty Rice.
“Basically, I look at him on how to lead some people. Different people need to be led differently, and he knows how to do that,” Dean said. “For me, I’ve just been looking up to him on how to do it. Quay [Walker], Rian [Davis], Trezmen [Marshall], Nate [McBride], Channing [Tindall] and I— we all just kind of look up to him and see him as the big dog. He’s just been great.”
Rice is entering his third season as a starter at Georgia and much like Richard LeCounte is in the secondary, Rice is a clear leader among the Georgia linebackers.
Defensive backs: Georgia brings back three top-tier cornerbacks with significant starting experience in Eric Stokes, DJ Daniel and Tyson Campbell.
Stokes himself was named Second Team All-SEC by both the coaches and the media. But for all those starts, the trio has combined for zero interceptions in their careers.
Which explains one of the key areas of focus for the Georgia defense this season.
Georgia does have one defender with a strong history of playmaking, as LeCounte had four interceptions last season for Georgia.
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