Georgia running back James Cook (4) runs the ball. The Georgia Bulldogs defeated the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets with a final score of 52-7 on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo/Gabriella Audi https://gabbyaudi10.wixsite.com/mysite-1)

In a virtual press conference Thursday, Georgia offensive lineman Ben Cleveland and running back James Cook discussed relationships on the field, offensive balance and positioning.

Finding balance on offense

Senior offensive guard Ben Cleveland is looking forward to getting back into game action after sitting out last year’s Sugar Bowl against Baylor due to academic issues. He spent the offseason preparing to block for an offense focused on maintaining its balance between the run and pass.

“Do what we can in the run game and throw it when we need to, run it when we need to,” Cleveland said. “I feel like that has served us pretty well over the last few years so I definitely think there is a happy medium and a good balance that comes among that.”

Georgia finished last season with 3,122 total passing yards on 415 attempts for an average of 7.52 yards per attempt. It added 2,591 rushing yards on the ground on 525 attempts for 4.9 yards per attempt. That is the type of equity Cleveland expects to see in the Bulldog offense again this season.

“I think it is always a happy balance,” Cleveland said. “You have to be able to run the ball to throw the ball and you have to be able to throw the ball to run the ball. That has been our philosophy since I have been here.”

Positions not set in stone

With all the turnover within the Georgia offensive line room, it has taken some time to work out who will be the opening five once the Bulldogs take the field Sept. 26 against Arkansas in Fayetteville. Redshirt sophomore Owen Condon has earned first-team reps throughout preseason practice, but players are still rotating all over the line.

Juniors Jamaree Salyer and Trey Hill, along with Cleveland, are expected to be big players on the Georgia offensive line but even they are still looking to lock down their roles.

“We have got guys working from left to right, from ones to twos,” Cleveland said. “I feel like that is going to continue up to game week. Right now it is just about going out here and seeing who wants to compete and who really wants to fight for that starting job.”

Georgia’s window to experiment is dwindling but it seems the depth chart will not be stable until closer to the season opener.

“I definitely think it is still early and we are still putting stuff in the playbook trying to perfect what we have to do,” Cleveland said. “I do not really think there is anything set in stone yet. There is still good competition going around all levels of the depth chart at all positions.”

At an Aug. 31 press conference, Condon said the best five linemen would start when the season begins, and Georgia appears to be taking its time finding them.

Support system at running back

The Georgia backfield is working to fill holes left by two of its lead backs from last season in D’Andre Swift and Brian Herrien who left for the NFL. Its two projected lead backs, James Cook and Zamir White, will now be sharing snaps and shouldering much of the offensive load for the Bulldogs.

Cook said his relationship with White is all about winning and pushing each other to be the best. Cook is not worried about yielding carries to White as he said he wants to do what is best for the team’s success this season.

“Zamir is my brother,” Cook said. “Whatever he does, I compliment him, encourage him, and every time I do something he will encourage me and come shake my hand. We are brothers and we are looking to be the best version of us and continue the legacy of RBU [Running Back University]."

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