Georgia football stock report: James Cook is soaring, but he’s not the only back on upswing

During the Bulldogs’ game against Kentucky on Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Tony Walsh

ATHENS — Georgia football did not exactly limp into the bye week, but it’s not an overstatement to suggest the time off is much needed.

The No. 1-ranked Bulldogs have an open date next weekend on the heels of a blue-collar 30-13 win over previously unbeaten Kentucky last Saturday at Sanford Stadium.

“We’ll get back to work on Monday, we have a lot of things we think we can improve on,” Smart said after beating the Wildcats.

Smart said the message for the Georgia players will be direct: “You want to flat line, stay where you are, or ascend to get better? Because there are a lot of things we can get better at during this stretch run, and we need to, and we also need to get some guys healthy.”

Smart will address the media on Tuesday and likely touch on those areas of improvement.

Here’s a look at how different players finished the first half of the season against Kentucky:

STOCK SOARING

James Cook: Cook’s run through traffic was the most impressive carry of the day -- he averaged 8.5. yards per carry. His excellence in the pass game makes him a tremendous asset, also.

Quay Walker: Walker’s open-field tackling cannot be denied, as his team-high 9 tackles indicate. It’s clear Walker has become more assignment and alignment sounds this season, as well.

Darnell Washington: Seeing Washington hurdle a would-be tackler in the open field was an amazing sight, and his 2 catches for 37 yards and blocking were impressive. Rising. Star.

Jordan Davis: Davis burst through the line on a third-and-1 and made the sort of stop that has made him college football’s premier run stopper. Davis may not get enough snaps for Heisman consideration, but the Nagurski and Outland Awards will come calling.

STOCK UP

Brock Bowers: The freshman tight end had 5 catches for 101 yards and 2 touchdowns, tremendous, but the head coach called him out on his blocking as a reminder.

Derion Kendrick: Kendrick was on the spot when Kentucky challenged him and continues to provide the best coverage in the secondary.

Kendall Milton: Milton’s 35-yard burst was impressive, but not unexpected. Smart said Milton’s heads-up recovery on the Stetson Bennett fumble was the biggest play in the game.

Sedrick Van Pran: Quietly, Van Pran has grown into an almost veteran presence. The snaps and assignments appear to be on point against even the best fronts.

STOCK EVEN

Jack Podlesny: Podlesny has been more inconsistent this season, and the missed extra point kick was evidence of his lack of focus.

Kearis Jackson: Jackson was shaky returning punts all day, bobbing two, and lacking the speed to get the corner for what would have been a big return. Clearly, this tough player isn’t 100 percent.

Justin Shaffer: Shaffer’s hold wiped out a touchdown. A capable senior, Shaffer’s occasional breakdowns at this stage of his career are curious.

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