A rising senior, Milton just now is in a situation where he’s in position to be “The Man” in the backfield for the Bulldogs. While he hasn’t exactly been that man for Georgia the past three seasons, Milton has spent that entire time preparing for the role.
“Trusting the process is important,” Milton said two days before Georgia played TCU in the national-championship game in January. “You have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror honestly and tell yourself what you need to work on and what you need to get comfortable with. There’s things you have to learn in order to get to the point you want to.”
Based on the “process” Milton has been enduring the past three seasons, he should be well-prepared at this point. Milton came all the way across the country to UGA from Fresno, California, in 2020, carrying 5-star prospect ratings from Rivals and PrepStar magazine and grandiose expectations from the fan base.
He has played a little more each season since then and might’ve played a lot more if not for injuries. Milton has missed 13 games the past three seasons because of various leg injuries. That represents 32.5% of the Bulldogs’ games.
“He’s suffered some injuries each year that he’s been here,” running game coordinator Dell McGee said at the end of last season. “But he’s been much healthier (in 2022), so we’re looking for big things out of him. He also serves the team in a leadership role.”
The wonder always has been what Milton might be able to do if he could stay healthy for an entire season. As it is, he has averaged 6.0 yards per carry. He has compiled 1,049 yards and nine touchdowns rushing over three seasons. He also has caught 13 passes for another 64 yards and a score.
Milton’s stats closely mirror those of fellow senior Daijun Edwards. Edwards’ actually was Georgia’s second-leading rusher last season (140 carries, 769 yards, 7 TDs) behind Kenny McIntosh (150-829-10).
Both Milton and Edwards will play a lot. The determining factor for who might land the role of “featured back” likely will come down to receiving skills. That’s what separated McIntosh last season. With 504 yards and two TDs receiving, he became the first Georgia back to compile more than 800 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving in a season. Not coincidentally, McIntosh is expected to become the next in the long line of Georgia backs to be drafted in April.
“We like to grow NFL backs here,” Smart said last year. “To do that you’ve got to use them in the passing game.”
Milton had five catches for 64 yards and one touchdown last year. Edwards had 14 for 101 yards, but did not score.
Like Edwards and Milton, McIntosh also had to trust the process. He played behind James Cook and Zamir White for three seasons before finally becoming the Bulldogs’ featured back. Milton hopes the same career arc awaits him.
“I feel like trusting the process is a major part of having success here,” Milton said.
- ·Returning starters: None
- Starters lost: Kenny McIntosh
- All eyes on: Kendall Milton (6-foot-1, 220, Sr.) and Daijun Edwards (5-10, 201, Sr.)
- Outlook: The Bulldogs feel strongly that their reputation as “Running Back University” will remain intact. Both Milton and Edwards are very experienced players. Between them, they’ve played in 66 games the past three seasons, with Milton recording the only start of the two last season against Georgia Tech. They’ll both be adjusting to a new coordinator in Mike Bobo and a new quarterback in whomever wins that job, so getting used to that will be the primary focus of spring camp. But so will be staying healthy. For that reason, expect “The Brothers Robinson” to get a lot of the scrimmage work and live reps. Branson Robinson and Roderick Robinson II aren’t really brothers, but they might feel like it after spending as much time together as they will this spring. Branson Robinson, a former 5-star recruit out of Canton, Miss., came on at the end of last season and finished with 330 yards and 3 TDs while appearing in 12 games. Roderick Robinson is a 6-0, 235-pound early enrollee from San Diego, who became a 4-star prospect after gaining 2,378 yards and 39 touchdowns as a high school senior. Georgia is not expected to have Andrew Paul available for live action in the spring session. He suffered an ACL tear in preseason camp in August and redshirted while rehabbing this past season. But he’ll be in meetings and walk-throughs with the hopes of possibly getting on the field in preseason camp late this summer.
- Up next: Linebackers
This is part four of an eight-part series breaking down each position group as the two-time defending national champion Georgia Bulldogs get ready to start spring practice March 14. The Bulldogs will conduct 15 practices over 32 days, culminating with the annual G-Day spring intrasquad game April 15 at Sanford Stadium.