Georgia Bulldogs believe RBU rep is safe in hands of Kenny McIntosh

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

ATHENS — The past three seasons, Kenny McIntosh never could be sure how much he was going to play from week to week. Oh, he knew he’d play, but as far as being part of the plan or knowing that more than a few touches might come his way, it was a guess.

Well, McIntosh doesn’t have to wonder any more. Not only is the senior running back part of Georgia’s game plan, in many ways he IS the game plan.

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After spending the past three seasons as a versatile backup to D’Andre Swift, then Zamir White and James Cook, McIntosh is looking forward to finally being the featured back for the Bulldogs. That will be on full display when the No. 3 Bulldogs meet No. 11 Oregon on Saturday in a Chick-fil-A Kickoff game (3:30 p.m., ABC).

For the senior from Fort Lauderdale, it’s been a long time coming.

“I’ve been like that my whole life, kind of like the underdog, if you want to say it like that,” said McIntosh, who has played in 34 games for the Bulldogs. “So, I’ve really been preparing for this moment. Just for me to be in this moment, I thank God to finally be here and get the opportunity to go out there and showcase my talent. Now that it’s here, I’m ready.”

Georgia fans should be, too. Having seen his work in small doses to date, it follows that a heavy dose of McIntosh will be even better.

Heading into this season, the most touches McIntosh has had in a game for the Bulldogs was 12. That came on 11 rushes and one reception for a total of 75 yards and a touchdown against Missouri in 2020. He had nine carries for a career-best 79 yards the week before versus South Carolina.

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McIntosh had 10 rushes for 57 yards against Arkansas last year. His only career start came last season against Georgia Tech, and he got only five touches in that one before heading to the sideline in what quickly devolved into a blowout.

No one is soon to forget his performance against Michigan in the Orange Bowl last season. McIntosh had only six touches in that one, too, but one of them was an 18-yard touchdown pass to A.D. Mitchell.

Such versatility is what has distinguished McIntosh to date. He also was Georgia’s primary kick returner last season. That’s a job he has ceded this year in favor of being the main man on offense.

UGA coaches and teammates are excited about the prospects. They’ve been raving about his performance in preseason camp.

Asked why, center Sedrick Van Pran said “just how explosive he is.”

“It’s amazing how you can give that guy an inch, just one hole, he can take it 70 yards,” Van Pran said. “That’s something that we’ve learned through our team run periods, through our scrimmages, whatever it may have been. If you give that guy a hole, he can make something happen.”

Said coach Kirby Smart: “You know, he’s always been a worker, but he was in the shadows of those other guys. And now, he steps up, he leads, he pushes guys. He’s gotten better stamina.”

Increased stamina is good because the Bulldogs need McIntosh to hold up. They’re thinner in the backfield than they’ve been in a long time. With freshman running back Andrew Paul out for the season with a torn ACL and junior Kendall Milton sidelined much of camp because of a hamstring issue, it has been mainly McIntosh and junior Daijun Edwards carrying the load for the Bulldogs. Running backs coach Dell McGee likes to have at least five backs at the ready every game.

Freshman Branson Robinson is not quite ready for prime time, according to reports. Smart said Milton has been able to recover and participate in practices the past two weeks.

Regardless, it is McIntosh whom Georgia is counting on this season. About that, he couldn’t be happier. Over his career, McIntosh has averaged 6.8 yards a touch. That has totaled 1,107 yards and eight touchdowns.

Packing all those touches in a single season is a tantalizing thought for McIntosh.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life,” he said. “We’ve got a standard here, and you want to uphold it.”

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