Kirby Smart confirms that TE Luke Ford will be back with team for bowl

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Georgia freshman tight end Luke Ford dressed out and traveled for every game this season. Ford is not currently with the team but is expected to return.

ATHENS — Georgia tight end Luke Ford is home for the holidays, but he’ll be back with the team.

Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart confirmed a Monday DawgNation report that Ford was not with the team as it resumed preparations for the Sugar Bowl this past weekend. The 6-foot-6, 252-pound freshman is planning to return after Christmas.

“Luke is in Illinois; he’s home right now,” Smart said at his Sugar Bowl Media Day news conference at the Butts-Mehre football complex. “We’re expecting Luke to return right after Christmas and practice with us here and then go to the bowl game.”

That meshes with what a person with direct knowledge told DawgNation early Monday. Ford reportedly was homesick and asked Smart if he could go home to Carterville, Ill., to spend some time with his family. Ford’s request was granted.

Ford was a consensus 4-star prospect when he signed with the Bulldogs out of Carterville (Ill.) High last year. He has been a regular contributor as a true freshman, appearing in 10 of Georgia’s 13 games on offense and special teams. Sometimes he would come into games as an H-back or fullback to provide extra blocking. He caught one pass for nine yards in the season opener against Austin Peay but has no other recorded stats.

Ford was the No. 1-ranked recruiting prospect in Illnois and the No. 3 tight end nationally, per 247Sports. He was recruited to Georgia by former tight ends coach Shane Beamer and signed with the Bulldogs a year ago during the early signing period. Beamer subsequently left to accept an assistant head coaching position at Oklahoma.

Ford joined fellow tight end John FitzPatrick of Atlanta in the 2018 signing class. FitzPatrick has appeared in only two games this season, so he will be able to use this season as a redshirt season.

Both players were behind co-starters Isaac Nauta and Charlie Woerner on the Bulldogs’ depth chart, as well as senior Jackson Harris. Nauta, a junior like Woerner, is in the process of getting a draft evaluation from the NFL.

Georgia currently has a commitment from 4-star prospect Ryland Goede of Kennesaw Mountain. The 6-foot-7, 240-pound tight end is expected to be an early enrollee.

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