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Perry McIntyre / UGA Sports
Georgia tailback James Cook could be in line for a breakout season.

WATCH: Explosive Georgia tailback James Cook likely key in new offense

ATHENS — Georgia fans looking for clues as to how the offense might look need only identify the most explosive and talented skill position players on the roster.

The ball will be in their hands most often.

Junior tailback James Cook has the look of a player tabbed for plenty of action when college football resumes this fall.

The UGA downfield pass game starts with sophomore George Pickens, the leading returning receiver. 

The Bulldogs’ No. 1 caught 49 passes for 727 yards despite being suspended for three quarters of the Georgia Tech game and half the LSU game.

RELATED: The Pickens Plan, why George looks to be No 1 downfield target

The No. 2 target could end up being No. 4 — James Cook — arguably the most underutilized talent on the team last season.

Cook, a former 5-star recruit whose open-fielded running has wowed teammates in scrimmages, has by all indications had one of the best offseasons among the Georgia players.

RELATED: UGA players rave about ‘freakish’ James Cook

Coach Kirby Smart identified Cook during the winter conditioning drills, and Cook has released offseason workout videos that show his explosiveness, sharp-cutting ability and great hands.

“James Cook, I mean we had competition daily to see who was going to win individual battles,” Smart said, “and James probably had the largest winning percentages.”

New Georgia quarterback Jamie Newman took to social media to make sure Cook knew he was noticing, and that’s a trend that will likely carry over to games.

Former UGA quarterback Jake Fromm rarely seemed to look in Cook’s directions on checkdowns, often able to get through all of his progressions downfield.

Smart explained how defenses often dictated where the ball went, more so than Georgia not looking to utilize Cook.

“James has probably lost out on three or four touches a game where the look dictated that it just didn’t hit right,” Smart said last season.

“So it’s not by design in any way shape or form, and we want to try to get him more touches, but ultimately there’s only one ball, and there’s only X number of plays, so we have to make sure we’re being efficient with our touches.”

There will be plenty of touches in and out of the backfield available with the departure of D’Andre Swift and Brian Herrien to the NFL.

Consider, Swift had 220 touches (196 carries, 24 catches) while Herrien had 119 (103 carries, 16 catches) last season.

Cook, meanwhile, had 47 touches, while Zamir White had 80 and Kenny McIntosh 26.

New offensive coordinator Todd Monken may utilize Cook like he did tailback Jacquizz Rodgers with Tampa Bay in 2018, when Rodgers caught 38 passes (on 45 targets) for 204 yards.

Cook caught just 16 passes for 132 yards last season — second to D’Andre Swift’s 24 receptions for 216 yards.

Swift served as a strong mentor for Cook last season, but this offseason, it has been big brother (and Minnesota Vikings star RB) Dalvin Cook leading the way.

Good things do indeed appear to be headed James Cook’s way this season.

 

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