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Jeff Sentell/DawgNation
James Cook's mother, Varondria Burnett, says Georgia 'is like family.'

UGA recruiting: It was a case of ‘Why not Georgia?’ for James Cook

Want to attack every day with the latest Georgia football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. The play sheet for Friday calls for a review of why Georgia’s newest commitment James Cook will play Between the Hedges. 


The simplest question when it comes to Georgia summons up a geyser’s worth of answers for James Cook and his family. Why Georgia?

“Why not Georgia?” his mother Varondria Burnett said. “Do you see what they are doing?”

DawgNation sees it. The rest of the recruiting world cannot miss it either.

To review:

  • UGA has secured commitments from the nation’s No. 1 QB and No. 1 RB for 2018. That’s 5-stars Justin Fields and Zamir White, respectively. (Side note: That hasn’t happened since Oklahoma in 2004.)
  • UGA now has secured commitments from the nation’s No. 1 RB and No. 3 for 2018. That’s White and Cook. (Additional blurb: No school has signed a pair of the nation’s top 5 RBs  ― not all-purpose backs ― since UGA did with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in 2014.
  • The Cook commitment now gives UGA 18 commitments and places the program at No. 1 in the SEC and at No. 5 overall in the 247Sports composite team rankings for this season.
  • The Bulldogs could very well sign anywhere from two to three additional 5-star prospects in 2018. That’s from a pool of players that includes 5-stars Tyson Campbell, KJ Henry and Jamaree Salyer.
  • This talent infusion for 2018 also follows up a recruiting year in which the Bulldogs signed the nation’s No. 3 class in 2017.

What is Georgia getting in Cook?

“They are getting a great person,” his mother said. “A great player. James is the type of person who works really hard. He is going to put it all out there on that field. We are going to be so excited to put it on and get out there. We are going to be so excited to play in front of every last single one of those fans.”

“I’m telling you that it is so electrifying to be in Athens at that stadium. Who would not want to play and give it their all in front of those fans? He’s going to be eager to give it his all and be the best player on and off the field for those fans. They are getting somebody special. They definitely are.”

The ‘at home’ feel for James Cook and his family

James Cook-UGA recruiting
James Cook is rated as the nation’s No. 3 RB and the No. 35 overall prospect for 2018. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

It was plain to see. The Bulldogs basically had been Cook’s leader since this summer. That was even before he de-committed from Florida State. That’s where his older brother, Dalvin, re-wrote a big chunk of that program’s all-time rushing records in his three seasons there.

“Georgia is just that atmosphere when you go there you just feel at home,” Burnett said. “It is the truth. You feel at home. Everybody is so welcoming. You see the greatness that they are trying to accomplish with coach [Kirby] Smart over there. It is an awesome place. It is an awesome place ― and I have been in and around pretty awesome colleges and stuff and Georgia is an awesome place.

“What they are trying to accomplish over there is awesome. It is crazy. Bananas. We’re ready.”

Her conversation was rushed and excited when Burnett spoke to DawgNation about the backstory behind this decision.

“Do you know what really made [James] know it was Georgia all the way?” she quizzed. “He came to me and said something very important.”

Her son, it should be stated, is not a talker. He is a quiet kid most of the time.

Well, except for the subject of playing for Georgia.

“He will talk if he has to,” Burnett said. “He is going to get out of that. Hopefully. He says to me, ‘For some reason when it comes to talking to every other coach, it is hard’ for him. He can’t do it. But he says it comes natural talking to [running backs coach] Dell [McGee] and [wide receivers coach James] Coley. Coley makes him laugh. Dell is the straightforward guy. Business. The ‘this-is-what-we-are-going-to-do-here-and-here’ guy. But then Coley makes him laugh. He likes it. He told me that talking to those coaches at Georgia is just so easy for him.

“Being around all those people in Athens is just different. It is right. Special. It is like family. It really is.”

The coaches at Georgia had hints of all that. Vibes. Good feelings. Burnett said they didn’t know for sure until Cook called McGee on Friday morning and told him he was ready to commit.

Jeff Sentell-UGA recruiting
James Cook has developed a close relationship with UGA running backs coach Dell McGee. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

“This is really exciting for us,” Burnett said.

When did she know? She said it was cemented for her on Cook’s official visit on Sept. 23. That was to Georgia and it stands as his only official.

“James is a hard person to impress,” his mother said. “He’s a hard person to get through to. He’s a hard person to get to communicate. You just don’t understand this. I wish I could show you. When I saw the way he was communicating and acting at Georgia when he got up there on that official. That was my second time being up there on that official. So when I saw the way was acting and communicating with everybody I was like ‘yeah’ that he was happy here.

“You could see the smiles. James is not a smiler. But you could see the smiles coming free and easy. Georgia did an awesome job recruiting us. They did an awesome job.”

She said that they always felt like family with Georgia. The commitment just made it official.

“We are definitely family,” she told DawgNation. “Welcome to the family.”

James Cook likely will not enroll early

Do not expect Cook to sign during that early signing period in December. He likely will not show up on campus in Athens in January, either. The plan is for him to finish his senior year at Miami Central and enroll sometime in late May or June.

Cook initially was classified as a 2019 recruit. The FCAT Florida standardized testing system flagged him in elementary school. He was held back in third grade.

He needed to reclassify to move up a grade or he would have had to sit out most of his senior year.

That’s the same situation that affected Alabama star receiver Calvin Ridley. It means that Cook has tried to breeze through four years of high school in just three years.

“James reclassified from 2019 into 2018 so this was a bunch of work he had to do to catch up,” his mother said. “So at this point right now it looks like he may not be able to graduate in January. He may have to wait until June. So we’ll see. I am not going to say yes. I am not going to say no. … He’s actually only going to do three years instead of four years of high school.”

Miss any Intel? The DawgNation recruiting archive will get you up to speed faster than Georgia All-American candidate Roquan Smith can find the football after the snap.


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