Arian Smith injury the latest setback for ‘special’ Georgia wide receiver group

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Georgia wide receiver Jermaine Burton gets into the end zone for a touchdown during the third quarter of Saturday’s game. (Curtis Compton/AJC)
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Dating back to spring practice, a recurring storyline for this Georgia team has been the inability to stay healthy at wide receiver. That theme flared up again on Thursday when it was learned that Arian Smith was lost for the season due to a broken leg he suffered in practice on Wednesday.

Smith had only played in four games this season. But his game-breaking speed was an asset for the Bulldogs when he was on the field. While he only has three catches this season, two of them went for touchdowns. With potential games against Tennessee, Charleston and Georgia Tech, Smith had a clear chance to grow into a bigger role on offense.

In the event that Georgia could ever get fully healthy at the position, Georgia coach Kirby Smart thought the position could be special. Now he may just have to hope to settle with being good.

“When we are fully healthy at receiver, excluding George and Dom, we have a good unit,” Smart said. “With George and Dom, that’s what we had going into the season it would be special. We’re working to get those guys back.”

Georgia does still have possible reinforcements coming at wide receiver, though there is still some skepticism as to what Dominick Blaylock and George Pickens could bring to this Georgia team given their injuries.

Neither has played in a game this season, though there has been some reason optimism that they’re close to returning to the field. The pair have both been working with the scout team as a way to work themselves back into game shape. Pickens still has to be cleared to physically return, as was the case with the likes of JT Daniels when he returned from his injury.

Of the two, Blaylock seems closer to returning to action. However, his next game will be his first in over 23 months.

“He is much closer and he’s looked good taking some reps against us,” Smart said of Blaylock. “He kinda works his way back. His mental disposition has been great. I can’t say it hasn’t been hard on them from the standpoint of confidence without the brace, frustration from the hamstring re-injury. The kid is a warrior, he goes out and competes, he listens in meetings, he’s a leader and he has done a great job.”

Pickens meanwhile has his NFL draft stock to consider as well with a regard to returning to the field.

Even amidst all the injuries, Georgia has been able to do enough to field a potent passing game. The play of Brock Bowers, as well as contributions from Darnell Washington, Kenny McIntosh and James Cook have lessened the burden on this receiver room.

Related: Kearis Jackson claps back at Georgia passing offense critics: ‘We are just as explosive as any other team out there’

If Burton, Jackson and Rosemy-Jacksaint can remain healthy, it should leave Georgia’s quarterbacks with plenty of passing options. While neither Burton nor Jackson are as fast as Smith, they’ve both proven they can stretch the field for this Georgia offense.

Should Blaylock and possibly Pickens return for Georgia, perhaps the wide receiver position can take two steps forward. That potential has been there all season. But with the Smith injury, it has always felt like the wide receiver room quickly takes one step back.

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