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Kirby Smart explains James Cook‘s lack of touches and more we learned about Georgia football this week
Last Saturday’s win against Florida made it crystal clear that Jake Fromm’s No. 1 target is Lawrence Cager. The senior wide receiver finished with 7 catches for 132 yards and a touchdown. Factor in his 6-catch, 82-yard game against Notre Dame, Fromm is going to target Cager often in Georgia’s biggest games.
And, as Georgia coach Kirby Smart revealed this week, some of those plays weren’t specifically designed for Cager. The ball just happened to find him, usually open in the middle of coverage.
“Some of them he’s primarily based on coverage. Some of them he’s not. Some of them, Jake had time to work to him to make the decision on who to throw it to, so I don’t think it was a scheme deal,” Smart said. “It was, some of them, he was just the best option. He was the open option in the zone. running back.”
Cager told reporters this week that Fromm was the third person to reach out to him, after Smart and Georgia offensive coordinator James Coley when Cager was going through the grad transfer process. Fromm wanted him at Georgia to help the team succeed.
And Cager’s decision to attend Georgia has helped both him and Fromm shine this year.
Related: How Georgia football has found success with graduate transfers and why it’s likely to continue
One of the more constant questions asked by fans is, “Why doesn’t Georgia get the ball to James Cook more often?” He’s shown he can be an explosive playmaker when called on, whether at the running back position or as a pass-catcher.
Even with the Georgia offense sputtering, Cook only has 3 touches in the past two games. Smart was asked about Cook this week and did speak on the desire to get him the ball more often.
“Yeah, I wish I could get everybody more opportunities in space. He’s a good player,” Smart said. “We’ve got to keep trying to find roles for him. He’s been an impact player for us on special teams and we’ve got to keep doing that with him.”
But one thing to keep in mind with both Cook and redshirt freshman Zamir White, is that if you are giving them touches, you are taking away reps from D’Andre Swift and Brian Herrien. Those two have been strong and consistent options all season for the Georgia offense.
Smart added that he wants to involve all of Georgia’s talented running backs, so long as he’s putting them in the best place to win.
“What you can say is we want the best players in the best opportunity to win and I think each one of those realizes that and acknowledges it,” Smart said. “They all have different strengths and we try to use those strengths.”
Much was made last week about how Florida’s defensive backs were going to match-up with Georgia’s wide receivers. South Carolina gave a blueprint to other teams by showing that you can disrupt Georgia’s wideouts if you press them in man coverage.
And against Missouri, the wide receivers are expecting a similar gameplan to what they saw against the Gators.
“They’re very physical. They’re big outside, I mean both corners are physical, they’re big,” Georgia wide receiver Kearis Jackson said of the Missouri secondary. “They play a lot of one’s so we have to be prepared to take shots and stuff. So, they’re good on the back end, they’re physical, they’re big, and just got to be able to attack and be physical on the line.”
Missouri has the No. 1 pass defense in the conference, as the Tigers surrender an average of 144 yards per game. But Missouri has done most of that by going against teams that are few less talented than Georgia. The Bulldogs will be the first ranked team the Tigers have seen this year.
For as great as Fromm and the Georgia run defense was against Florida, no unit played better than Georgia’s offensive line. They kept Fromm clean all game, as the vaunted Florida pass rush was held without a sack.
That was a big turnaround from the South Carolina game, where Georgia gave up 3.0 sacks. Smart called out his offensive line after that game and it seems they’ve responded to that challenge.
“I think the pass protection has been excellent…They had improved. They worked hard on it and they have gotten better as far as snap-to-throw,” Smart said. “Our guys have done a good job up front. That’s one thing they do really well is pass pro, and it’s like Sam says, you get good at what you practice at. Well, we practice that, too.”
Senior left tackle Andrew Thomas has been a standout all year and was recognized as the SEC’s offensive lineman of the week for this past week. He was also named the Outland Trophy Player of the Month. Thomas has continued to cement his status as one of the best offensive linemen in the country.
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