Kirby Smart updates Georgia football injuries, talks running back rotation

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Georgia junior running back James Cook is expected to return from a shoulder injury to play against Alabama, according to Kirby Smart.

ATHENS — Kirby Smart said James Cook is expected to be cleared for Georgia’s game at Alabama on Saturday, adding even more depth to a competitive backfield situation

“We expect to have him back, we thought he could go in an emergency Saturday, felt good about him being able to go should we have needed Saturday,” Smart said on his Monday Zoom press conference.

“We have good depth there right now, so we’re hoping he’ll be 100 percent healthy and ready to go.”

RELATED: Backfield competition big question for UGA at Bama

The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs (3-0) play the No. 2-ranked Tide (3-0) at 8 p.m. on Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

Cook, who was expected to be a center piece of Todd Monken’s new offense, suffered a shoulder injury in the first half of the Auburn game Oct. 3 and was taken to the locker room before halftime.

The junior from Miami had gotten off to a rough start at Arkansas, dropping two passes and fumbling the ball away, but he appeared to have found his stride against the Tigers with five carries for 41 yards.

Many of the Georgia fans have been excited about the production from upcoming backs Kenny McIntosh and Kendall Milton, but Smart said he’s excited about the entire running backs room.

“I’ve been really pleased with the backs, I think protecting the ball is key for us,” Smart said, a reference to how junior starter Zamir White has protected the ball this season. “They run hard after contact, and break tackles, each one is a little different than the other.

“James brings an exciting quality to our offense, and brings different flair than maybe some of the guys.”

Indeed, but Milton and McIntosh have also shown great attributes in the power of power and explosiveness, while true freshman Daijun Edwards has shown versatility.

Cook said last week he defers often to run game coordinator and running backs coach Dell McGee, who handles the running back substitutions and personnel decisions.

Here’s a look at each UGA back’s statistics:

Rushing

White 54 carries, 209 yards 3.9 yards per carry

Milton 15 carries 90 yards, 6.0 yards per carry

McIntosh 17 carries, 80 yards, 4.7 yards per carry

Cook 12 carries, 67 yards, 5.6 yards per carry

Edwards 12 carries, 38 yards, 3.2 yards per carry

Receiving

McIntosh 4 catches, 51 yards

White 3 catches, 19 yards

Cook 2 catches, 10 yards

INJURY UPDATE

Smart said offensive linemen Warren Ericson and Ben Cleveland left last Saturday’s game on account of “fatigue,” and said neither were injured.

Smart also said receiver Tommy Bush was in a “minor (traffic) accident” and has “a little bit of a concussion, he’s got some injuries, but we are thankful that Tommy is ok because it was a dangerous situation.”

Projected Player Availability

OLB Jermaine Johnson (shoulder) probable

WR Matt Landers (hand/wrist) probable

RB James Cook (shoulder), probable

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