Kirby Smart shares Georgia football plans for ‘electric’ James Cook
ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia football sophomore tailback James Cook came into fall camp looking for carries last season.
This season, the Miami product comes into fall camp with his head coach looking for ways to get him the football.
More than Cook’s number has changed in the past year (from 6 to 4), as Coach Kirby Smart recently revealed.
“He’s electric, he’s a little different than what we have so we want to find ways to get him the ball,” Smart said. “I think he’s a lot more mature now.”
D’Andre Swift will start for Georgia and get the lion’s share of the carries provided he stays healthy, but Cook is in the mix for carries himself as well as catches and returns.
Smart was concerned about Cook in spring drills, noting he looked a bit sluggish and not up to full speed coming off ankle surgery.
Things changed over the summer.
“James has bulked up a little bit, he’s gotten a little bigger, he’s very intelligent he’s a guy we’ve got to find ways to get him the ball.” Smart said. “There’s going to be a great competition there, because we know it’s hard to play more than three backs, and we’ve got some good backs, so we’ve got to find ways to get those guys touches.
“(Cook) has got to become a more dominant special teams player.”
Cook’s skills as a pass catcher were obvious last season.
But it’s what he does in the open field — regardless of how he gets the football — that sets him apart.
“James Cook, he’s really different, he’s really fast, very athletic, he’s a freakish guy,” former UGA linebacker Juwan Taylor said after one of Cook’s first scrimmages.
“A couple of runs in practice he broke on us on defense,” Taylor said, “and I was like, ‘wow, this kid is fast.’ “
Cook gained 284 yards on 41 carries last season and caught eight passes for 89 yards.
Its not unreasonable to believe Cook could match those numbers in the first month of this season.
Defensive lineman Julian Rochester, coming off an injury this offseason, agreed about Cook last fall.
“It just changes the game, it changes the pace,” Rochester said. “I think when you look at him, he looks a lot faster than all those boys and moves a lot quicker, and it’s a different type of style that we haven’t seen yet.”
Smart has seen enough, and Cook has grown up enough, that the rest of the SEC figures to see a lot more of the Bulldogs “new” No. 4.