Kendall Milton injury to tell us a lot about the state of the Georgia football running back room

georgia football-running backs-kendall milton-injury
Georgia run game coordinator and running backs coach Dell McGee before Georgia’s game against Vanderbilt on Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Tony Walsh

Kendall Milton wanted to show teams that he could stay healthy, that knee and groin injuries that limited him during his first three seasons at Georgia were a thing of the past.

“I would say a big thing is being able to just go through the season and maintain my health,” Milton said at the start of spring practice. “I would say that’s kind of one of the biggest points of this offseason. I focused on rehabbing and things like that. I made that a high emphasis.”

Related: Georgia tailback Kendall Milton limited by hamstring injury, RB room lacking depth

Unfortunately, the senior running back will now miss the rest of spring practice due to a hamstring injury. Milton is expected to be fully ready for fall camp in August, but his latest injury won’t assuage any concerns about making it through the 2023 season.

Milton was expected to be the lead running back for Georgia this season. Daijun Edwards was a far more likely bet to lead the team in carries, yet it was Milton who was seen as the big-time playmaker. Kenny McIntosh and James Cook held that mantle in previous seasons, ones that ended with Georgia as national champions.

Milton isn’t the only banged-up running back for Georgia this spring, as Edwards has been limited in media viewing portions of practice with an undisclosed injury. Redshirt freshman Andrew Paul also will not be a full participant in spring practice as he continues to recover from an ACL injury he suffered last August.

After providing an update on Paul to start spring practice, Smart made a rather interesting remark with regard to where the team is at from an injury standpoint.

“This is the least number of guys we have out for medical reasons going into a spring that we’ve had in a while,” Smart said. “We also have 21 either mid-years or the three portal guys that’ll be out there — not all of them are practicing, but available to practice. So it definitely increases our depth.”

Related: Georgia tight end Pearce Spurlin to miss the rest of spring practice due to injury

Since then, freshman tight end Pearce Spurlin and now Milton have been lost for the rest of the spring.

So now that depth that Smart spoke about will be tested at the running back position.

The only two fully healthy scholarship running backs for Georgia at this point are sophomore Branson Robinson and freshman Roderick Robinson. The remaining nine practices will be invaluable for both players as they look to carve out roles for the 2023 team.

Branson Robinson entered spring as the most likely candidate to be Georgia’s No. 3 running back. The sophomore from Canton, Miss., was limited to mostly mop up duty as a freshman, finishing with 330 yards on 68 carries. His best two games came against Auburn and TCU, when he scored a combined three touchdowns on 19 carries.

Both Robinsons should be seen as power runners, with Branson being a former weightlifting champion while Roderick arrived at 235 pounds. The freshman comes from San Diego, Calif., and played for the same high school that produced former Georgia great Terrell Davis.

To expect Roderick Robinson though to come in right away and dominate the running back room might be a bit much at this point. For now, he’ll use the spring to further get his feet underneath him.

“He’s a strong player. He can make those cuts,” Milton said of Roderick Robinson. “Same thing like me when I came in as a running back: You just have to be able to, you know, get comfortable learning the schemes and learning the pass pro and learning the different blitzes and just learning different stuff that comes with being a running back in such a high-talented offense.”

Related: Roderick Robinson II: The stuff you don’t know about the next great UGA running back is pretty special

The running backs were not expected to be a focal point during spring practice. While McIntosh’s production won’t be easy to replace, Georgia felt good about what it had in Milton and Edwards at the top of the depth chart.

Now, the Bulldogs will learn what they have in both Robinsons. And the recent string of injuries shows just how quickly depth can be widdled down, especially at a position like running back.

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