ATHENS — Georgia football is under the microscope after one of its most heralded signees, freshman running back Zamir White, suffered a torn ACL in his left knee on Saturday.
The attention has to do with White’s celebrated status as the No. 1-ranked tailback in the 2018 class, and the fact he was practicing with a knee brace eight months after undergoing surgery.
Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart, a former two-time All-SEC safety at Georgia, explained what led to White’s injury in Saturday’s scrimmage at Sanford Stadium.
“He was covering a punt, and it was a non-contact injury,” Smart said. “There was nobody really around. He and Mark Webb were kind of holding each other up.”
It’s not hard to envision: The players’ arms locked up, White trying to shed a block, Webb carrying out his assignment to hold him up, White tries to use lower body strength to cut, perhaps break loose, and when planting the torque from the upper-body lock up leads to a torn ligament.
That’s very unfortunate, but that’s part of football. Sometimes no amount of conditioning can prevent such injuries as ligament damage.
Here are three takeaways from what has become a controversial topic:
1. The injury is not controversial
White had been cleared for full contact meaning Georgia’s medical staff had determined the right knee that was operated on last November had been rehabilitated satisfactorily.
White was wearing a knee brace as a precaution, and also to help the young back regain confidence in the surgically repaired knee.
Saturday’s injury was to White’s previously healthy left knee.
Further, as Smart pointed out, it has become common for high-profile players to be a part of special teams’ units.
Special teams is often a separator in winning and losing a football game, in terms of execution as well as missed penalties.
2. White was fighting to make the travel squad
White was indeed a 5-star prospect worthy of his acclaim.
But in the Aug. 4 open practice, it was clear that his time away from football had taken a toll. White did not appear as explosive, quick or powerful as in his high school film footage.
Further, in talking to Georgia defensive players, White was not the first, second, third or sometimes fourth back mentioned when asked who had impressed.
Georgia’s backfield is deep and talented, and D’Andre Swift, Elijah Holyfield, Brian Herrien and James Cook all looked better.
Smart points out only 70 players can travel to road games. A player’s ability to make the travel team is often determined by his ability to contribute on special teams.
White was likely trying to “make the bus” as Smart likes to say, and the Georgia coaches were giving him an opportunity by placing him on a special teams unit.
3. Business as usual moving forward
White’s injury, while unfortunate, will not send oddsmakers in Las Vegas scrambling to adjust the Georgia football betting line for point spreads or season win total.
The top three spots on the Bulldogs’ depth chart at tailback does not change.
Further, Smart will not change how he coaches, and the competition at Georgia for a spot on the bus will not decrease.
The number of healthy 5-star players on the Bulldogs roster is down from 21 to 20. But Smart means it when he says the stars a player received in recruiting mean nothing in the meeting rooms or on the depth chart.
To make the 70-man travel squad, a player is going to have to find a way to contribute to the team, and special teams will continue to be an available avenue.
Further, White’s case serves as evidence that even the No. 1-ranked tailback prospect in the 2018 signing class has to compete for playing time on a championship caliber team.
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