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Georgia tailback Kenny McIntosh was the go-to player for the Bulldogs on the game-winning drive of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

Georgia running back derby is off and running with intense competition

ATHENS — Nothing drives offseason football chatter like talk about position battles, and it’s no different at Georgia where an overstocked running back room and mixed results in 2020 have Bulldogs fans barking.

An unscientific DawgNation poll last week revealed rising second-year freshman Kendall Milton to be the fan’s choice after he had flashes of brilliance amid an injury-plagued 2020 campaign.

 

Chris Milton, Kendall’s father and a popular figure who often shares his takes on social media, weighed in on the poll indicating his son’s immense popularity in the Georgia football fanbase.

 

The irony of the poll voting is that Kendall Milton was the only Georgia running back not to score a touchdown last season.

Running backs coach Dell McGee favored Zamir White near the goal line and in short-yardage situations in an otherwise stochastic rotation.

Fact is, all of the Georgia runners have their strengths and weaknesses. There are plenty of metrics out there to reveal what they are.

Kenny McIntosh led the SEC in the broken tackle rate and a statistic called “Gumption Rate,” which measures instances of a runner getting hit behind the line of scrimmage, yet still being able to gain a yard on the play.

 

James Cook, meanwhile, ranked tied for second in the league in explosive run rate while McIntosh ranked seventh.

 

Cook was also the top Georgia back in rushing success rate ranking third in the SEC, while McIntosh ranked 8th in the league.

White ranked eighth among SEC rushers on third-down success rate during the 2020 regular season, (68.4 percent).

 

It was a great debut season for freshman Daijun Edwards, too, as he actually got more work and put up better numbers than did Milton!

Milton, who appears to be the best power running back on the team and a future NFL prospect, was slowed by a hamstring injury in fall camp and suffered a sprained MCL against Florida that led him to play only seven games.

Edwards, however, had back-to-back games with double-digit carries after the Bulldogs built up big leads, carrying 14 times for 77 yards at South Carolina and 11 times for 103 yards and a TD at Missouri.

Milton has yet to have more than 8 carries in a game.

Cook and McIntosh each have had just one double-digit carry game in their careers.

Cook, who has played in 35 games, got his only double-digit carry opportunity as a freshman in 2018 at South Carolina.

McIntosh got his one double-digit carry opportunity last season at Missouri (11 carries) out of the 20 games he has played his two years on the team.

White had an advantage over the younger players last season when spring drills were canceled, as his experience pass blocking and knowledge of the playbook gave him an upper hand.

But with a full session of spring drills ahead, and coach Kirby Smart’s commitment to playing the best players regardless of class, the competition at running back is wide open.

One can only imagine how the running backs are competing every day in practice, and who is winning the sprints.

 

Here’s a look at last year’s rushing statistics:

White 144 carries, 779 yards (5.4 yards per carry)

McIntosh 47 carries, 251 (5.3 yards per carry)

Cook 45 carries, 303 yards (6.7 yards per carry)

Daijun Edwards 37 carries, 218 yards (5.9 yards per carry)

Kendall Milton 35 carries, 193 yards (5.5 yards per carry)

Running back receiving statistics

James Cook 16 catches, 225 yards

Kenny McIntosh 10 catches, 111 yards

Zamir White 6 catches, 37 yards

Kendall Milton 1 catch, 22 yards

Daijun Edwards 1 catch, 3 yards

 

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