I hate to break it to the rest of the country, but the University of Georgia—despite some of the preconceived notions—is absolutely here to stay.
After a magical season that saw its end in the College Football National Championship game against the Mighty Crimson Tide of Alabama, Georgia proved that it possesses both the style and personnel to compete with anyone in the sport.
Unlike years past, UGA is built from the inside out with NFL talent along both lines of scrimmage. Now while that may have been the case before, head coach Kirby Smart has implemented a five-dollar-steak-like scheme aimed at punishing the opposition where it counts the most: between the tackles.
Offensively speaking, we can expect bigger linemen—from guard to guard—who’ll help move mountains in an effort to further establish that physical identity.
But Georgia is also equipping itself with athletes that can both bend the edges and operate in space to complement a future stud in the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Zamir White, who’ll team up with an already established star (in my opinion) in 5-9, 215-pound D’Andre Swift. (And that’s glossing over very capable upperclassmen like Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien, both of whom could find themselves at the forefront of the attack next season; anything’s possible.)
Swift is as versatile as it gets, as he has the size, hands, and suddenness to compete between the tackles and help out in the passing game, but the Dawgs have gone out and found themselves another running back who could almost work exclusively in the throw game in an effort to exploit some serious matchups.
Miami (FL.) Central RB James Cook is a problem, y’all.
At 5-11, 181, he has virtually the same exact skill set that made New Orleans Saints rookie Alvin Kamara the biggest headache in the league, and he gets to play with the college quarterback version of future Hall of Famer Drew Brees in Jake Fromm.
Additionally, Cook and Swift’s skill set matchup favorably with Kamara and his teammate Mark Ingram; add in White and it’s like Adrian Peterson still being with the Saints.
To put it frankly: Defenses are screwed.
Actually, let me rephrase that. If offensive coordinator Jim Chaney can reach into his bag of tricks like the Saints have done to feature these running backs in a plethora of roles, then defenses are screwed.
The potential for “20 personnel,” halfback angle routes, delayed screens, motion to empty and more Wild Dog schemes than you can shake a stick at has me giddy like a little school girl just thinking about it.
I believe Cook is a rare back that could generate the same acclaim as a pure wideout on his way to the NFL. The fact that he can also carry the ball just blows my mind.
Just look at him Cook (pun intended) the No. 1 corner in the country, Pat Surtain Jr., in a rep at the Army All-American Bowl practice.
There aren’t too many receivers who can work a transition phase better than Cook, as he’s subtle in his breaks and quiet in his form; his hands are butter soft, too.
Just look at the separation created on this 5-route; being as though he’ll be coming out of the backfield, primarily, he’ll naturally be provided the dreaded cushion by defenders; that’s a scary thought.
But don’t forget about his run-game prowess and zone-awareness; his ability to find organic creases will fit right into the Dawgs’ inside- and outside-zone schemes.
The Dawgs, as it stands right now, lack a true No. 1 receiver and no longer target the tight ends as I expected them to under Chaney. Fromm has the capability of completing 70 percent of his throws but the lack of those aforementioned traits will make it hard to bring that to fruition.
Having multiple backs that can operate together, in the passing game, may circumvent the lack of TE targets and help with not having a No. 1.
Check out the Saints operating out of “22 personnel,” which got Kamara matched up with linebackers out in space. That almost seems impossible to defend because you have to honor the initial part of the play with Ingram being so effective in the run game; only one player, a LB, will have Kamara as an assignment catching the ball on the go.
I can so imagine Cook making plays downfield like Kamara in the above sequence.
Playing it forward, when highly touted, franchise-like receivers Jadon Haselwood and Dominick Blaylock arrive in the Classic City, Georgia could very well find itself with the best throw game—matchup-wise—in the country due to the ability to dictate all over the formation.
I’m usually not an advocate of two running back sets, but I’ll make exceptions for it when both backs can contribute to the throw game like Swift and Cook can. Can you imagine Choice routes with those two in the game together?
It’s getting real, Dawg Nation.
@MurfBaldwin on Twitter
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