ATHENS — It hasn’t taken long for Georgia football early enrollee Kendall Milton to fit in with his new teammates, many of whom are from the South.
Milton, part of a recent UGA roundtable interview with former Bulldogs’ SEC Championship Game MVP D.J. Shockley, explained how the sports culture is different in Georgia than California.
“It seems like out here people, in a sense, want to go get it more,” said Milton, who hails from Clovis, Calif., just outside of Fresno.
“So I’d say when I came out here, it kind of motivated me to have that same mindset,” said Milton, the No. 53 overall player in the 2020 Class per the 247Sports Composite and No. 7-ranked running back.
“(It’s) to come out here and basically do anything necessary to get what you want. So I would say it’s the mindset out here that sets it apart.”
One of the keys to Coach Kirby Smart’s success with the Bulldogs has been the level of buy-in from the team. Even as different players and team captains have cycled through, the dedication and commitment have not wavered.
Milton, who turns 18 on Monday, has felt like Georgia was the best fit for him since he made his silent commitment last June during a visit.
“I would just say it felt like home, it felt like the family atmosphere that I was looking for,” Milton said, explaining why he turned down the opportunity to stay closer to home in the Pac-12 and passed over scores of other schools to be a part of Georgia’s RBU tradition.
“All the coaches, they kind of treated me as their own, that kind of stuck out to me,” he said. “I knew this would be a place where they would hold me accountable to everything, but also, help me reach greatness, and reach the level I want to get to.”
There will be competition all over the field in spring camp, particularly on offense.
The Bulldogs lost a great deal of experience on the offensive line and in the running backs room.
There’s no reason Milton should be shy about his aspirations, particularly at a school that has such a rich reputation at the running back position.
It starts with Herschel Walker, arguably the greatest college football player in history.
The trend has continued with a more recent run of elite backs including NFL stars Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and projected first-round pick D’Andre Swift.
“So I felt confident that this was the place for me,” Milton said. “And this was the best opportunity to get where I needed to go.”
There does not appear to be an heir apparent to Swift entering into the offseason.
Redshirt sophomore Zamir White (6-0, 215) is the leading returning rusher with 408 yards last season. This, even after coming off ACL surgery on both his right and left knees that forced him to redshirt the 2018 campaign.
White looked better than ever carrying the ball in the Sugar Bowl with his 18-carry, 92-yard rushing performance, but there remain questions about his ability to catch the football.
Sophomore Kenny McIntosh (6-1, 210) had the longest play from scrimmage all season, a 62-yard TD run and led the backs with a 7 yards-per-carry average. McIntosh is also a capable receiver, but his body of work is limited, as he was not afforded a high volume of opportunities last season.
Junior James Cook is one of the most electrifying players on the roster, but previous UGA offensive coaches have been unable to scheme effectively enough to get him into open space. There were also occasions last season when Cook was open, but former quarterback Jake Fromm selected other options.
The Bulldogs recently added freshman signee Daijun Edwards, a 5-10, 201-pound back with speed and pass-catching ability.
And then there’s Milton, at 6-2 and now 227 pounds, the biggest in the running back stable.
Milton said he’s not sure people recognize just how big he is on his highlight films, because he’s often running around or away from the defenders.
“I would say a lot of people, they watch my film, they watch me make people miss in space, (watch) me out-run people,” Milton said. “I would say my combination of the size, along with the speed and the agility. And I feel like that separates me as a player on the field.”
The Bulldogs’ offseason conditioning program has been underway, and the team is expected to start spring football practices the third week of March.
Wishing my baby boy, @therealkmilt , a VERY HAPPY 18th birthday today!
I never thought we would be celebrating it on different sides of the country, but God had something else planned…
If you see him, show him love today!! I LOVE YOU SON!!! pic.twitter.com/tMh3irGvwC
— Chris Milton (@fatherofballers) February 10, 2020