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Zamir White is looking for a big game against Kentucky.

Georgia looking to its rushing attack to help out its quarterbacks against Kentucky

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Georgia football looking for more from running backs heading into Kentucky game

Former Georgia running back D’Andre Swift scored a touchdown for the Detroit Lions on Sunday, helping them to a win in Atlanta. The former Georgia running back was taken with the No. 35 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft after a strong Georgia career.

This all likely makes Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops very happy. Swift shredded the Kentucky defense in each of the past two seasons, rushing for 156 yards in 2018 and then 179 yards in 2019. After the 2019 performance, Stoops openly wished for Swift to head to the NFL.

Now with Swift suiting up for the Lions, Stoops won’t have to worry about slowing him down this Saturday when the Wildcats host the Bulldogs. Instead, he’ll have to scheme up a way to limit the other Georgia running backs.

And that’s proven to be an easier task than when Georgia had Swift.

There’s Zamir White, Georgia’s leading rusher and ball carrier. Through four games he leads the team in both carries, 64, and yards 266. But he hasn’t been the dynamic player that Swift was as he averages just 4.16 yards per carry for Georgia. Swift last season averaged 6.21 yards for every carry.

Through the first four games of the season, White has gotten more routine praise from head coach Kirby Smart for his work on special teams than he has as an offensive weapon.

“I think Zamir has been very productive, he’s better conditioned,” Smart said. “We are fortunate we were able to play a lot of backs, so he doesn’t get probably as many carries, but that never seems to frustrate him. He does a really good job of knowing his role and helping our team.”

With White filling more of the bruiser role, James Cook has been the running back to do the most damage in the passing game. He shined in the Alabama game, as he finished with 101 receiving yards. He also made the most explosive play of the season for the Bulldogs when he hauled in an 82-yard touchdown pass from Stetson Bennett.

Cook missed the Tennessee game with a shoulder injury but the Alabama game seemed to show he was fully recovered. As offensive coordinator Todd Monken gets deeper into his bag of tricks on offense, Cook seems like a player who stands to benefit from an improved passing game.

Perhaps the player though that most fans want to see more of is freshman running back Kendall Milton. He’s put up 100 rushing yards on just 14 carries in the past two games, averaging over 7.0 yards a rush against Tennessee and Alabama. He ripped off a 24-yard run against the Crimson Tide, the longest run by a Georgia running back this season. He also ran through the Tennessee defense in another highlight-reel run.

“Just keep going. Just keep on working hard, practicing hard. Just keep doing you and do what you do,” White said of the freshman. “Kendall’s a great kid and a smart kid. Me, Cook, Kenny, we love him to death.”

Milton has also had a bit of adversity to overcome this season, as he suffered multiple hamstring injuries in fall camp. There was also a fumble at the end of the Auburn game that could’ve stalled his development.

“He makes really good cuts, has good vision,” Smart said of the freshman. “Every opportunity he has gotten he’s taken advantage of it and grown with it.”

Talent so far hasn’t been the problem for the Bulldogs at the running back spot. White, Cook and Milton have all had their moments, as has Kenny McIntosh, especially as a kick returner.

So why isn’t the Georgia running game as strong or dynamic as it has been in years past? In 2018, the Bulldogs ran for an average of 238 yards a game. Through the first four games of the 2020 season, the Bulldogs are averaging just 165 yards per game.

“I feel the run game there’s some stuff we need to pick up, but that’s on all of us,” White said. “The offense needs to come together more and lock it in.”

Related: Kirby Smart: Georgia football ‘always evaluating guys at quarterback’

Some of that can be chalked up to playing an SEC only schedule to this point. It’s also worth pointing out it each of Georgia’s running backs have been dinged up at some point this year. McIntosh didn’t practice last week after picking up a knee injury in the opening minutes of the Alabama game. White also added that he was a little sore during the Tennessee game, which contributed to his worst performance of the season.

There’s also the fact that Georgia is working with a new offensive coordinator in Monken. He’s in his first year with the program after spending the previous four years in the NFL. He’s in charge of the offense and play-calling, but perhaps most importantly, he’s tasked with improving Georgia’s passing offense.

In an age where teams with dynamic passing attacks are winning championships, much of the focus has been on how the Bulldogs can improve in that aspect. White pointed out how much the SEC has changed with its regards to passing offenses, as the likes of Alabama, Florida and LSU are putting up massive passing totals.

But White also wants to make sure you know that the running game is still there. And that an effective ground game can help set up the pass.

And it can really help a team that is still trying to find out what it has at the quarterback position like Georgia.

“You really need the ability to run the ball when you have a quarterback that is still developing and is still young and doesn’t have the experience of a guy that maybe has,” Smart said. “You have to be able to run the ball and help him in regards to doing that.”

So how far away is the Georgia ground game from looking like what it was the last time it went into Lexington, Ky., when the Bulldogs rolled up 331 rushing yards on their way to a 34-17 win? A strong performance against the Wildcats would undoubtedly help open things up for whoever plays quarterback for the Bulldogs.

“We feel like coach Monken is doing a great job here,” White said. “We feel good about the run game and the outbreak game is coming soon. We’re going to get it.”

Georgia running back Zamir White praises Kendall Milton, Georgia running backs

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