ATHENS — Georgia tailback James Cook has lined up as a slot receiver before in practice, but on Tuesday it seemed to carry more weight with opening game starter Kearis Jackson declared out for 3 to 4 weeks a fractured hand.
Fact is, Cook is a player Coach Kirby Smart said in the offseason that the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs planned to get more involved in the offense the season.
“He’s got to become a more dominant special teams player, he’s electric, he’s a little different than what we have,” Smart said, “so we want to find ways to get him the ball,”
Cook, arguably the most explosive offensive player on he roster, had six touches in the 30-6 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday in Nashville. The younger brother of Minnesota Vikings’ starting running back Dalvin Cook figures to get more work this week in the 4 p.m. home game with Murray State (TV: ESPN2).
Offensive coordinator James Coley, who was integral in James Cook’s recruitment, appeared to be coaching up the fleet-footed tailback on route running and coming out of breaks on Tuesday.
Cook, it’s worth noting, has also taken snaps as a Wildcat Formation quarterback in some UGA practices.
Out of practice
Smart said after practice that offensive lineman Clay Webb is ill and did not practice. Defensive lineman Tramel Walthour was also not at practice, Smart said, because he’s “dinged up.”
It appeared Tyler Simmons and Matt Landers continued to get the first team work at the outside receiver positions, with Lawrence Cager and Trey Blount running with the twos.
Demetris Robertson was the first slot receiver on the field, with freshman Dominick Blaylock moving up a spot after Jackson’s injury.
On defense, it was noteworthy to see Quay Walker lined up next to Monty Rice with what appeared to be the first-team defense, and DJ Daniel lined up as a first-team cornerback.
The Bulldogs, like more every other program, mix and match personnel as they sit fit for each opponent or to see how different combinations perform.
Georgia is a seven-touchdown favorite against the FCS Racers and figures to give several different players longer looks after being limited to bringing just 70 players on the travel squad to Vanderbilt.
At that, not all of the players Smart brought to Nashville played in the game
Blaylock, freshman tailback Kenny McIntosh, defensive lineman Julian Rochester and defensive end Malik Herring were among those who were not listed on the participation chart.
Rochester has been working his way back from offseason ACL surgery and is questionable for Saturday’s game, as well. Smart indicated Herring needs to take advantage of his practice time to earn an opportunity to play.
The Bulldogs have more players who will see their first action against Murray State, according to Smart.
“I’m excited about the guys who will get the chance to play this week that didn’t travel,” Smart said on Monday. “We’re going to have an opportunity for every guy to go out there and practice and get better. Those guys will get the opportunity to grow and get better.”
Indeed, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Pickens and Blaylock get their first catches and McIntosh get his first carry.
D’Andre Swift looked strong in Tuesday’s practice / Mike Griffith photo
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