Kendall Milton: 'I’ve been trying to raise my game'
Milton returns, hoping to play a bigger role in Georgia's offense in 2021
Georgia running back Kendall Milton (2) during the Bulldogs’ practice session in Athens, Ga., on Thursday, March 18, 2021. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Georgia is in great shape at the running back position, as it returns five talented rushers from a season ago.
Every player in the Bulldogs’ backfield made a significant impact at some point last season, but the problem is that there’s only one ball, and snaps are limited because of all the talent.
Still, that doesn’t discourage second-year tailback Kendall Milton from trying his hardest to climb his way up the depth chart.
“Every day is fun,” Milton said after Tuesday’s practice concluded. “We understand the talent that’s in the room, the skill that we have at running back, and it pushes us every day. But at the end of the day, we’ve all got the same goal and the same dream.”
Georgia returns two veteran seniors in Zamir White and James Cook, while junior Kenny McIntosh is also in the mix. Then, there’s Milton and fellow sophomore Daijun Edwards, who played extensively in mop-up duty towards the end of last season. Add in freshman Lovasea Carroll, who is currently practicing at defensive back, which makes for one of the deepest backfields in the nation.
Even with all the competition, Milton takes nothing for granted.
The California native admitted that last year he liked having the older guys in front of him, especially to help make the transition from prep ball to the collegiate level.
“Last year was actually great for me, I was able to learn a lot from James and Zamir,” Milton said. “Just sitting back and absorbing stuff every day,. Going from high school to the SEC is a very big jump, so just sitting back, learning ways to be successful, that was a blessing for me.”
Milton added that the camaraderie with his teammates is sincere and that the group is close.
“We hold each other accountable off the field and on the field, just make sure we’re handling business,” Milton said. “At the end of the day, we all want to be successful, we all want to take care of our families through this game, and be great at what we do. We have each other’s backs.”
Last season, as a freshman, he carried the ball 35 times for a total of 193 yards, while averaging 5.5 yards per attempt. Milton had some impressive runs in the seven games he played in, although he dealt with a hamstring injury and sprained knee late last season, which kept him sidelined.
However, he’s spent all offseason in the weight room with the UGA training staff to try and improve his chances of getting more reps in 2021.
“I watch a lot of my film from last season, and try to keep focusing on the weaknesses,” Milton said. “I’ve been trying to raise my game with the pass pro, and trying to fill in all the gaps I felt I lacked over the years, and didn’t get too much practice in.”
He explained that he’s trying to turn his “weaknesses into strengths.”
“I feel like this offseason, I’ve been able to flip the script a little bit,” he said.
Well, it seems like his training over the last couple of months has paid off. Sources that have seen the last two scrimmages have told DogWatch that Milton has been the most impressive out of Georgia’s backfield thus far.
Even head coach Kirby Smart has noticed Milton’s progression over the last month.
“I thought Kendall (Milton) did a really nice job today with some physical runs,” Smart said after Saturday’s scrimmage. “We had a couple third-and-shorts or fourth-and-shorts that he was able to convert as a big back and do some things.”
Still, Smart added that all of his backs are working hard, especially in pass protection drills, which is something that is important to him.
“They’re all working really hard on their protections,” Smart said. “That’s one of the areas we really targeted this spring in terms of pass protection and pick-ups. A lot of people want to come after JT (Daniels) and be aggressive, blitz and do things. They’re going to be asked to really make people pay for that and the way to make people pay is to block and pick it up. I’m pleased with what those guys have done.”
It appears that Milton has picked up on the things that appease the coaching staff, but also at the same time, knowing that these areas can help elevate his performance.
“This is Georgia, it’s RBU, so I feel the run game will always play a part in the offense,” Milton said. “But we’re an offense with a lot of weapons all over the field, and everybody wants to get the ball. So, you have to fit the scheme where it benefits everybody,”
Milton said he knows his role and that if his time comes, he will surely take advantage of it.
“One thing I’ve kept in mind, everybody has their time,” Milton said. “God has the time for everything to happen. When it’s my time to cross that end zone, then it’s my time. Until then, I’ll keep working every day and trying to be the best I can be.”
Here is the video from Milton’s Tuesday interview, courtesy of Bulldawg Illustrated: