Georgia will be without its top tackler and top two running backs when it tries to defend its national championship in 2022.
Junior Zamir White, the team’s leading rusher last season, announced Friday that he will enter the NFL draft. Senior James Cook announced earlier this week that he is leaving with one season of eligibility remaining.
Meanwhile, Lewis Cine, who is the No. 4 safety available for the draft, according to Mel Kiper Jr., also announced Friday that he will be entering the NFL draft.
White, who overcame two knee injuries and a myriad of health issues as a child, rushed for 856 yards with 11 touchdowns last season. White, from Laurinburg, North Carolina, ranks 15th in school history with 2,043 rushing yards and led the Bulldogs in rushing in each of the last two seasons.
White rushed for 84 yards with a touchdown in Georgia’s 33-18 victory over Alabama in the College Football Playoffs National Championship presented by AT&T on Monday night, ending the Bulldogs’ 41-year drought without a national title.
“This season was an absolute thrill from start to finish and bringing a national championship to Athens was the ultimate reward,” White wrote on his Instagram account. “I am so proud and feel so blessed to be a part of this team… These are memories I will never forget and are sure to last a lifetime.”
Cook, the younger brother of Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, was one of Georgia’s most versatile playmakers last season. He rushed for 728 yards with seven touchdowns and had 27 receptions for 284 yards with four touchdowns. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Cook as the No. 9 running back available for the draft.
Georgia will bring back three running backs in 2022 who rushed for at least 200 yards: Kenny McIntosh, Kendall Milton and Daijun Edwards. Milton, the No. 12 running back on the 2020 ESPN 300, missed much of this season with a knee injury. In December, the Bulldogs signed running back Branson Robinson, from Madison, Mississippi, who is ranked No. 2 in the ESPN 300 rankings.
Cine, a junior from Cedar Hill, Texas, had a team-high 73 tackles and nine pass breakups this season. He was named the defensive MVP of the CFP championship game against Alabama with seven tackles and one pass breakup.
“I will forever cherish the friendship and brotherhood I built with my teammates, through the ups and downs,” Cine wrote on Twitter. “We achieved something special, and it will never be taken away from us. Our bloodline is UGA and we are Dawgs forever.”
The Bulldogs will bring back starting safety Christopher Smith, who announced he will return next year.
— Chris Smith II (@cpsmithdb) January 14, 2022