ATHENS — My debut for the Georgia football “ask the expert” feels very appropriate in that the subject matter in running backs.
Of all the positions I’ve covered in college football, this is the one where I feel most qualified based on the fact I have covered some of the best running backs in SEC football history.
While a journalism student in college I covered the Detroit Lions when Barry Sanders was the running back.
Every handoff brought me to the edge of my seat in the Pontiac Silverdome, and I’ve only seen a few backs since then that can do that.
Some of them I’ve had the good fortune of covering.
The Stephen Davis-James Bostic duo on undefeated 1993 Auburn was special, and Shaun Alexander is the most talented running back in Alabama history in my opinion.
The Jamal Lewis-Travis Henry-Travis Stephens trio at Tennessee was dynamic, and later, a Vols’ backfield with two 1,000-yard rushers in Gerald Riggs Jr. and Cedric Houston was among the most underrated.
Arian Foster came along later for Tennessee, and you could see his talent his true freshman yea.
I moved to the Michigan State beat in 2012 where Le’Veon Bell and Jeremy Langford were waiting to impress.
My return to cover the Vols saw Jalen Hurd, Alvin Kamara and John Kelly sharing the backfield. They are all NFL talents, and I believe current UT back Ty Chandler could be special, too.
Now, Georgia, and the first thing I did was look at the games last year and review the recruiting tape of Zamir White and “Little” James Cook.
That brings us to today’s question:
— Michael McCollum (@mgmccollum) August 17, 2018
I’ll come right out and say it: Cook has captivated me from the time I saw his highlights. Not because of what he did — most all FBS backs are run away from the competition in high school.
It’s where Cook did it. You don’t see guys run away that easily on the high school football field of South Florida. But there was Cook, electrifying and dazzling against future FBS players.
Usually I put the videos at the bottom of the story, but you got to watch this — look at the change of direction and acceleration from Cook:
James Cook High School Highlights
Now you know why Monty Rice said: “I’ve never played against a running back like Cook before, he has his own little style, and it’s very unique.”
Question is: What does Jim Chaney think?
My guess is Georgia’s base offense will be single back, three-wide and one tight end.
When two backs are in the game, I’d guess it would be in shot gun, and sometimes one might go in motion as a receiver. That’s what I saw on video from last year’s games, and it worked well.
I could see Chaney doing it most often in passing situations or in the two-minute offense.
D’Andre Swift looks strong and appears to be the starting back. Elijah Holyfield has had some camp moments, but I’m always somewhat skeptical of junior and senior backs having breakout years — seems their star would have already shined.
But if you go with a second back, whether it’s Cook, Holyfield, Brian Herrien or White, who do you take off the field?
Do you subtract a Demetris Robertson or Mecole Hardman? Because it sure looks to me like Riley Ridley is emerging as a go-to guy and Terry Godwin is proven.
Ideally Cook will grow to be the same size as his big brother, 6-foot, 210-pound Dalvin Cook of the Minnesota Vikings.
But for now, “Little” Cook — as Monty Rice calls him — is listed at 5-10, 190. Not big enough to be a three-down back in the SEC.
I’m of the Alabama football mindset of utilizing bigger, stronger backs as primary ballcarriers.
If anyone can appreciate that, it’s Georgia fans who have first-hand memories of the greatest SEC back of all time, Herschel Walker.
So my answer isn’t as definitive as maybe you’d like, but hopefully it provides some perspective.
Oh, and for those who wonder what I think of White, I’m reserving judgement until he gets that bulky knee brace off.