The list of successful running backs to come out of Georgia is well documented. From Terrell Davis to Todd Gurley to Sony Michel and D'Andre Swift, there's no shortage of good running backs to play their college ball in Athens.
Another one could soon be joining their ranks as senior running back James Cook looks to build off an impressive performance in Georgia's College Football Semifinal game against Michigan.
In the game, Cook was actually the team's leading receiver, hauling in four catches for 112 yards and a touchdown to go along with six carries and 32 yards on the ground. He's been a receiving threat out of the backfield all season for the Bulldogs, as his 25 catches rank fourth on the team and his 269 yards rank fifth.
But this is certainly the biggest game where Cook has enjoyed that level of success. However, James isn't the only successful running back in the Cook family.
Sporting News has everything you need to know about the Georgia senior ahead of the Bulldogs' meeting with Alabama for a national title as he tries to repeat his performance.
James Cook brother
Cook comes from a family of talented running backs and isn't the first one to have big games on big stages in college.
His older brother, Dalvin, originally burst on to the scene at Florida State. There, he was two-time All-American and became the Seminoles' all-time leader in rushing yards during his time there fron 2014-16. Following that standout career, Dalvin went on to the NFL's Minnesota Vikings, where he's been a Pro-Bowler for three straight years and has three consecutive seasons with 1,000-plus rushing yards.
The younger Cook said his brother has been offering him advice ahead of the biggest game of James' career.
"I mean, he really just tells me to stay locked in all year and get what I deserve. And that's where I'm at now," James said. "He just tell me keep working and my time is going to come. And my team is here. So I've got to make the most of it because you only get one of these opportunities. And you can say this is my last one. So I've got to make the most of it.
James also said having Dalvin in the NFL has served as motivation for him to both come back to Georgia for his senior season and to play well in the game.
"That is a motivational factor just knowing that you've got an older brother in the NFL," he said. "And that's someplace you want to be some day. So that just kind of make me wanted to work extra hard knowing that I had an older brother in the league and is a baller. That played a factor too."
James Cook stats
2021 has been the best year of Cook's career so far. He's put up a career high In rushing yards with 651 and a career high in receiving yards with 269. With the increased success has come increase usage.
He's got 107 carries so far this year, meaning he averages an efficient 6.1 yards per carry. That's up from the last three years, when he had 41, 31 and 45 carries, respectively. Cook has also become a dual-threat, as he's shown prowess as a pass catcher as well.
Last year he had 16 catches for 225 yards, the latter of which was good for fourth on the team, and he became a bigger part of the passing game this season.
All told, Cook has 224 carries for 1,426 yards (6.4 ypc) and 14 touchdowns on the ground to go along with 65 catches for 715 yards through the air, making him a versatile option regardless of whether Georgia wants to pound the rock or air it out.
James Cook draft projection
It's because of this versatility that Cook has risen up draft boards, even if he doesn't have the gaudy numbers of some of the other running backs in this class.
ESPN's Todd McShay was particularly high on Cook following his breakout performance against Michigan.
UGA’s James Cook is the most underrated RB in the 2022 draft class. He may never be the every-down starter for an NFL team but he’s such a versatile weapon. Love his vision and twitch as a runner and he’s a legit receiving threat in the slot and out of backfield.— Todd McShay (@McShay13) January 1, 2022
Cook could technically return for another year because of a COVID waiver, but as already accepted an invitation to February's Senior Bowl, where he could line up at wide receiver as well. And a good performance there may not only help his draft stock, but draw him comparisons to current NFL running backs as well.
Two years ago we played Memphis WR Antonio Gibson (yes, that Gibson) exclusively at RB during @seniorbowl week. Last year, UCLA RB Demetric Felton repped at WR. Both hugely benefitted from showcasing that versatility. James Cook will be listed at RB but could show out at WR too. https://t.co/jwcZaKQiz8— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) December 6, 2021
As for where exactly Cook projects to go, that may not be known until closer to the draft. But even well before his breakout game, some of the sport's top draft analysts have him as an early round pick.
Georgia RB James Cook remains one of my favorite prospects at the position. Not sure why some are giving him Day 3 grades, but his tough running style at 190 lbs is eye candy. He's also a pretty dang good receiver and has open-field moves.
More on him in Scouting Notebook 2mrw