Georgia’s Kenny McIntosh brings versatility to running game

Georgia running back Kenny McIntosh (6) makes a catch to set up a touchdown against Tennessee, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: John Bazemore

Credit: John Bazemore

Kenny McIntosh hadn’t returned a kick since high school. But to open the 2020 season, the sophomore running back was listed as Georgia’s primary kick returner against Arkansas.

The Razorbacks' first kickoff was a touchback, but the next time, McIntosh caught the ball inside his own 10-yard line and took off up the sideline. He wasn’t touched until he crossed the 50 and was brought down around the Arkansas 45.

A 6-foot-1, 210-pound sophomore from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., McIntosh is averaging 42.8 yards per kick return through three games and ranks fourth in the country in average yards per kick return. He hasn’t returned a kick for less than 38 yards so far this season.

“I feel like (on) kickoff (there) is a lot more space, and I just run with my eyes and I see the hole and I hit it,” McIntosh said Wednesday.

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In addition to his kick-return responsibilities, McIntosh is third on the Bulldogs’ depth chart at running back. Even with limited carries, McIntosh been relatively effective — averaging 4.7 yards per carry — and has seen his carries increase in each game this season.

“Of course it’s what every back wants, to get the ball a bunch of the times so they can showcase their talent and go out there and do what they’ve gotta do for the team,” McIntosh said.

“But I’m a team player. Whenever my name is called, that’s when I’m ready to go out there and perform. It’s looking good for me to go out there and just do what I have to do for the team.”

When James Cook missed Saturday’s game against Tennessee with an injury, McIntosh became the second option behind Zamir White, and he had his most productive game of the season. He carried the ball eight times and gained 45 yards on the ground, in addition to 36 yards on two receptions and a 42-yard kick return.

The ability to be a reliable option in the passing game is something that McIntosh and the other running backs work on every day — and McIntosh said it’s something that drew him to Georgia.

“I see myself as an athlete,” McIntosh said. “Running routes has always been a part of my game, and I love running routes. It’s another reason I came to Georgia, so that I can get a chance to run routes, make those one-on-one mismatches (and be) able to win them.”

But even as his role increases and McIntosh gets more involved in the offense, he’s not losing sight of his role as the primary kick returner. One of his biggest goals for the rest of the season is to return a kick for a touchdown.

“It’s a goal of mine, so I’m gonna do whatever I have to do to make that goal happen,” McIntosh said. “Just being back there and returning kicks is just me doing what I have to do for my team. I just do my part.”

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