Coaches Poll-top 25-week 2-2021-georgia football
Georgia running back Kendall Milton, middle, finds some room to run against Clemson during the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday, Sept 4, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Unsung Georgia run game will be leaned upon regardless of JT Daniels’ injury status

ATHENS — The Georgia football backfield didn’t rank among the Top 5 in the SEC last weekend, per SEC Network analyst Roman Harper, but Kirby Smart isn’t panicking.

The No. 2 ranked Bulldogs are coming off a tightly-contested 10-3 win over Clemson in Charlotte, N.C., with confidence in their ability to execute in the run game.

“When our offense had to convert, had to force the ball down somebody’s throat, a pretty good defense, they were able to do it and that makes me proud,” Smart said after the win over the Tigers. “But we have a long way to go to get explosive and get where we need to be offensively.”

Georgia might have even further to go depending on the health and status of quarterback JT Daniels, who has been dealing with some soreness and had more limited reps this week.

Coach Kirby Smart has not commented, but UGA players Warren McClendon and Ladd McConkey confirmed that backup quarterback Carson Beck has been getting more work with the ones this week along with Daniels.

RELATED: When JT Daniels upper-body injury occurred, what players said about his practices

Georgia plays host to UAB at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday (TV: ESPN2) in its home-opening game at Sanford Stadium.

SEC Network analyst Roman Harper shares his RB room ratings.
SEC Network s, Dawgnation

It’s a veteran Blazers’ team with nine starters returning from a squad that finished seventh in the nation in total defense last season.

The Bulldogs played just one receiver last week who had more than 10 catches last season — Jermaine Burton — and Smart revealed Burton isn’t in “game shape” after missing about two-thirds of the spring and fall practices on account of a hyperextended knee and sprained ankle.

That turns the action back to the run game, where Georgia has a crowded stable of five tailbacks vying for carries.

Zamir White overcame a fumble to lead the team with 13 carries and 74 yards rushing, while Kendall Milton had 6 carries for 27 yards, James Cook had 5 carries for 19 yards and Kenny McIntosh had 3 carries for 5 yards.

Smart said he needs his running backs to be ready to play well on special teams and realize that none of them will likely get a vast majority of carries.

“We’ve got talented guys in there, and they have to understand they serve a greater purpose in their role on special teams and all-around team morale even though not any one of them is going to get tons of opportunities and carries,” Smart said. “You’re not going to end up with a guy with 20 carries, not with a backfield like we have.

“But it’s still demoralizing to other teams to have a fresh back coming at you all the time.”

Harper, whose top five SEC backfields were: Texas A&M, Florida, Auburn, South Carolina and Missouri, explained why Georgia’s backfield didn’t crack the Top 5.

“Georgia didn’t score any touchdowns offensively,” Harper said. “The rankings are a week-to-week deal, and they could change next week.”

Indeed, as could the quarterback in the game.

Even if Daniels’ starts the game, there’s a chance Beck could make his season debut.

RELATED: Everything to know about Georgia back-up Carson Beck

Smart has said Beck is the No. 2 quarterback, though fifth-year senior Stetson Bennett continues to get work and would be an option.