ATHENS — Georgia’s defense could get a big lift on Saturday at Missouri, quite literally.
Jumbo nose tackle Jordan Davis has been “practicing really hard and looks good,” Coach Kirby Smart said on his Tuesday night Zoom call.
Smart’s comments trigger speculation that Davis, a 6-foot-6, 330-pound force, could be back on the field for the No. 9-ranked Bulldogs (6-2) when they face No. 25 Missouri (5-3) at noon on Saturday.
Davis has been out since suffering an elbow injury in the Bulldogs’ 14-3 win over Kentucky on Oct. 31, and Georgia’s run defense has not been the same without him working the interior defensive line.
“Jordan looks good,” Smart said. “Jordan has done a really good job of being in conditioning shape.”
Davis traveled with the team to the Nov. 28 game at South Carolina but did not play.
Smart also said tailback Kendall Milton is practicing in a non-contact jersey and is “pretty close” to being ready to play. Milton suffered a strained MCL in the Bulldogs’ 44-28 loss in Florida on Nov. 7.
Milton (5.9 yards-per-carry average) has grown into the team’s most efficient runner between the tackles, but he’s not likely to be rushed back into action with Georgia looking to pile up the carries for junior Zamir White.
James Cook (6.6 ypc) and Kenny McIntosh (5.7) have proven more explosive runners than White (5.1), but UGA running backs coach Dell McGee appears to favor White’s experience.
Smart all but ruled out safety Richard LeCounte, who suffered a concussion along with rib and shoulder injuries when he crashed a dirt bike on Macon Highway at dusk on Halloween Night.
“Richard has taken about 25 percent of his reps that he would normally take, he’s probably not ready,” Smart said of the preseason All-American safety.
Smart explained that LeCounte wants to be back getting even more work, but with him less than 100 percent and not able to play, it just doesn’t make sense as the Bulldogs focus on the players who can help them win.
“It’s hard because for every rep you give him, that’s somebody else who doesn’t get one, and you don’t get to prepare a younger player,” Smart said. “If he was ready to play, we’d want to give him all the reps, but he’s got to work himself back. He’s still not 100 percent …. “
LeCounte is also expected to leave Georgia after the season, possibly joining the six other Bulldogs who have committed to playing in the Senior Bowl.
“He’s pushing his way back,” Smart reiterated, “but I just don’t think he’s going to be ready this week.”