Georgia will be without its leading tackler and both of its leading rushers when it tries to defend its national championship in 2022.
Junior Zamir White, the team’s leading rusher this past season, announced Friday that he’s entering 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 on Friday he is entering the NFL draft.
White, who overcame two knee injuries and myriad health problems as a child, ran for 856 yards with 11 touchdowns this past 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 past two seasons.
White ran for 84 yards with one score in Georgia’s 33-18 victory against Alabama in Monday night’s College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T, which ended 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 will surely last a lifetime.”
Cook, the younger brother of Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, was one of Georgia’s most versatile playmakers this past season. He ran for 728 yards with seven touchdowns and had 27 catches for 284 yards with four scores. 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 ran for at least 200 yards: Kenny McIntosh, Kendall Milton and Daijun Edwards. Milton, the No. 12 running back in the 2020 ESPN 300, missed much of this season with a knee injury. In December, the Bulldogs signed tailback Branson Robinson, from Madison, Mississippi, who is ranked the No. 2 running back in the ESPN 300.
Cine, a junior from Cedar Hill, Texas, had 73 tackles and a team-high nine pass breakups this season. He was named 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 highs and the lows,” Cine wrote on Twitter. “We accomplished something special, and it will never be taken from us. Our bloodline is UGA and we are Dawgs forever.”
The Bulldogs will bring back starting safety Christopher Smith who announced he is returning next year.
— Chris Smith ll (@cpsmithdb) January 14, 2022