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Petty McIntyre / UGA Sports
Georgia tailback James Cook has not been utilized much the past two games, so it will be interesting to see if James Coley can find ways to utilize his talent moving forward.

7 Georgia football players to watch against South Carolina: Where’s James Cook?

ATHENS —  Georgia puts its perfect record on the line on Saturday against a South Carolina team coming off a bye week that will be looking to shock the world.

The Gamecocks biggest rivalry is in-state foe Clemson, but when it comes to the SEC, the border-state Bulldogs are the primary target.

RELATED: 3 keys for Georgia football to beat South Carolina

The bullseye on Georgia is even bigger with UGA boasting 5-0 record and lofty No. 3 national ranking, ensuring South Carolina a place in the spotlight if it could somehow catch Georgia sleeping with the noon start.

The Gamecocks are 2-3 and 1-2 in the league, a disappointing start that wouldn’t seem to offer much hope for a memorable season.

The Bulldogs have their own issuesm still trying to figure out how to divide up one football into enough carries and caches for the wealth of talent Kirby Smart has assembled.

Personnel packages are tailored to combat certain schemes, there’s ongoing competition within the ranks, and the UGA staff is staying mindful of player development.

Somehow, Smart and his staff need to make it all work.

Here are seven different Georgia players to watch against South Carolina:

James Cook

Cook was one of the most talked about skill players in spring drills and into fall camp by coaches and teammates, but to this point his opportunities have been limited.

Game flow has everything to do with play calls, but Cook had just one carry and one kick return against Notre Dame, and last Saturday at Tennessee the only time he touched the ball was on two receptions.

It’s possible that in moving Cook around so much — he also lines up as a slot receiver — the sophomore has not yet found his groove this season. It will be interesting to see if that changes against South Carolina, and if Coley finds a way to get this elusive speedster more involved.

Cook had 8 carries for 103 yards and 6 catches for 57 yards through the first three games of the season

D’Andre Swift

D’Andre Swift is proving he can carry the load game in and game out, erasing questions about his durability with 17-carry and 18-carry efforts back to back. But Swift’s work in short yardage has been less than impressive against Power 5 opponents, just 2 of 7 converting when facing a down-and-distance situation of 2 yards or less.

Further, Swift’s longest carry in the past two games is 23 yards, and he didn’t crack 100 yards in his 18-carry game against Notre Dame (98) or his 17 carries against the Vols (72).

That might not be noteworthy for most backs, but Swift is as explosive and dynamic as they come, so it’s evidence defenses are doing a good job of scheming up the Bulldogs’ run game.

Nakobe Dean

The freshman middle linebacker looked so good in the G-Day Game that expectations may have been ratcheted up too high for the regular season, especially with him suffering a high ankle sprain in fall camp that put him behind

Smart says Dean is healthy now, however, and he’s back on the field getting game reps.

Veteran starters Monty Rice and Tae Crowder certainly aren’t doing anything to lose their job, and while Dean has not yet done anything in the regular season to foreshadow the greatness many expect, it would seem it’s only a matter of time.

Jake Fromm

It’s Fromm’s team, and it will be interesting to see how long he plays it close to the vest against a South Carolina defense he should be able to read like the back of his hand. The Gamecocks will have some twists, but Will Muschamp has basically the same defensive philosophy as Smart.

Fromm must be more careful with himself, however, as he has tucked the ball the past couple of games and put his golden arm in harm’s way. Without Fromm, Georgia’s national championship hopes vanish.

Fromm has shown a bigger arm than many knew he had, and his timing on fade routes and downfield throws is certainly turning the heads of NFL scouts — and winning football games.

Lawrence Cager

Cager has emerged as the most reliable downfield target at this stage of the season, playing as big as his 6-foot-5, 220-pound frame suggests he should perform.

The big question on Cager coming in was his ability to separate from defensive backs and out-run pursuit, but those questions have been answered.

It has been a good transfer for Cager, who took a leap of faith in Smart and James Coley when he elected to return to college rather than turn pro following last season at Miami.

Tyler Clark

The defensive line needs to step up according to Smart, and the head coach doesn’t normally waste words.

Clark is the leader of the defensive line, and he has been playing at a high enough clip that he has gotten back on the NFL radar after a relatively disappointing junior senior that saw him battle through nagging injuries.

This is exactly the sort of game Georgia needs Clark to assert himself with his gritty leadership, because South Carolina is going to show up ready for a streetlight in the trenches.

Richard LeCounte

Yes, it was LeCounte chasing in pursuit on Tennessee’s 73-yard first-quarter TD pass, and many of us were thinking the same thing: “Rat Trap Richie!”

That’s what LeCounte says Smart refers to him as when he gets caught playing the wrong assignment, but the head coach sounded more understanding on this occasion.

It turns out the Vols used a max-protection scheme — keeping seven players in to block — and that gave WR Marquez Callaway time to use a double move to get open.

LeCounte redeemed himself with a bone-jarring hit on UT’s 260-pound tight end and then an interception, leaving the stadium with a smile and the sort of infectious enthusiasm he so often brings.

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