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Zamir White figures to have a big role in the Georgia offense next season.

Why the running back position is the most intriguing for Georgia football spring practice

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Why the running back position is one worth watching this spring

For the first time since the 2015 season — Mark Richt’s last as the Georgia head coach — the Georgia Bulldogs will not have a returning starting quarterback to turn to.

Jamie Newman does have starting experience dating back to his time at Wake Forest, but the next time he steps foot in Sanford Stadium for a competitive game will be his first.

Naturally, a lot of eyeballs will be on Newman, Stetson Bennett, D’Wan Mathis and Carson Beck this spring. But barring a real surprise, Newman is in all likelihood going to be the starter for Georgia when it takes on Virginia on Sept. 7.

The quarterback position this spring will have your curiosity. But it’s actually the running back position that should have your attention.

For the first time since the 2012 season, Georgia doesn’t bring back at least one running back who rushed for at least 500 yards last season. The Bulldogs will attempt to replace Brian Herrien and D’Andre Swift. The latter has an excellent chance to be the first running back off the board in the 2020 NFL Draft.

But unlike the quarterback position, Georgia has continued to recruit incredibly well at the running back spot. Zamir White, James Cook and Kendall Milton were all top-100 recruits. Kenny McIntosh wasn’t too far off that mark and flashed in limited opportunities as a freshman last year.

Those four will all have a chance to impress new offensive coordinator Todd Monken this spring. They’ll be joined by Daijun Edwards later this summer to round out the five-man unit.

The Georgia running back room will have a diverse set of skills, which should allow Monken to mold and get the most of his offense this coming year. White and Milton figure to be more physical runners given their size and running style.

Cook figures to be the fastest of the backs as well as the best pass catcher of the group. Given Georgia’s youth at the wide receiver position, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see Georgia get Cook involved in that aspect of the game.

McIntosh might be the best mix of physical and speed — a jack of all trades, master of none type — while Edwards played for one of the top high school programs in the state of Georgia. His learning curve at the college level won’t be as steep given his time playing for Colquitt Country.

With Swift limited and Herrien out for the Sugar Bowl, White got the first chance to showcase what he might be able to do with a bigger workload. And he didn’t disappoint. He rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown in the Sugar Bowl win over Baylor.

White’s recruiting ranking has followed him throughout college as he was the No. 1 ranked running back in the 2018 recruiting cycle. He’s also suffered multiple ACL injuries that cost him his entire freshman season.

Last season White finished with 408 yards and three rushing touchdowns. Now that he’s finally healthy for a Georgia spring practice, as well as farther away from his second ACL tear, there’s a real chance for him to re-establish his confidence in his rushing abilities.

There’s also confidence in him that he can take up the mantle of being the lead running back.

“I think he’s pretty ready,” Herrien said.  “Coach McGee, me and Dre (Swift) when he got there we taught him a lot of things as a running back.

“He has to be ready to go early because at UGA, a running back will probably leave every year so you have to be ready to step up anytime someone leaves.”

Swift echoed Herrien’s comments while adding that he’s equally excited to see what Cook, McIntosh and Milton do in a Georgia uniform this year.

As for Milton, he’s likely to be the most talked-about early enrollee this spring. He played a huge part in putting together Georgia’s No. 1 ranked 2020 recruiting class. He’s already taken advantage of Georgia’s strength and conditioning program and has a real chance to be one of the stars of G-Day, which will take place on April 18.

Many will assume that with Monken and his vertical passing offense that the Bulldogs will be more inclined to open up the offense more. But as several Bulldogs told DawgNation last week, Kirby Smart is still going to rely on the running game.

Related: New offensive philosophy for Kirby Smart? Not so fast, say Georgia players at NFL combine

The biggest question in regard to that and this spring will be which of the running backs can Georgia rely on. It could possibly be all four of them or one or two might be able to pull away from the pack like they would a slower defender.

Either way, for all the interest in Newman and the quarterback position this spring, the real fireworks should come from the running back position and who will do the best job of setting themselves up to be the No. 1 running back for the 2020 season.

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