NEW ORLEANS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart said he’s going to focus on the players that are with the team and playing in Sugar Bowl.
“I know you guys are concerned and focused on who may or may not be here, or who is or isn’t playing, but that is not the concern of this team,” Smart said. “This team is focused on who is here.”
The Bulldogs’ head coach was asked about the status of running back Brian Herrien and defensive tackle Tyler Clark upon arriving at Louis Armstrong International Airport via the team’s charter flight on Friday.
Smart indicated people will learn who is and isn’t present at the team’s open practice on Saturday. It will be the first UGA open practice since Nov. 4.
Smart said junior tailback D’Andre Swift had two of his better practices before leaving Athens. Swift, a projected first-round NFL draft pick, has left his playing status up in the air.
“He’s been able to do more and more at each practice, the last two doing the most,” Smart said. “We’re hopeful that he’s able to go and 100 percent for the game. He wants to play in the game, so if he’s able to go 100 percent, he’ll be able to play.”
Smart said sophomore tailback James Cook is cleared to play in the game after passing a drug test.
Cook, who was among the players to arrive via the charter flight, was dealing with internal team discipline after his arrest on Dec. 14 on misdemeanor charges of having an invalid driver’s license and an open container of alcohol in his car.
“We thoroughly reviewed his situation, in compliance with our drug policy, we tested him immediately after he had an arrest, the test was negative, and James is cleared to play, it’s that simple,” Smart said.
“Not proud of his behavior, but he suffered some discipline for what he did, and that’s done.”
The No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (11-2) play the No. 7-ranked Bears (11-2) at 8:45 p.m. next Wednesday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Smart said receiver Kearis Jackson is still dealing with the high ankle sprain he suffered in the first half of the SEC Championship Game.
Georgia fans already knew the Bulldogs would be without starting offensive tackles Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson. Both players announced their intentions to leave the team and begin preparations for the NFL Draft last week.
Starting offensive guard Ben Cleveland will also reportedly miss the bowl game on account of academics, and receivers Lawrence Cager (ankle) and Dominick Blaylock (knee) are also sidelined.
The Bulldogs were missing key players in last year’s Sugar Bowl game with Texas, too.
Cornerback Deandre Baker first said he was going to play, but later reversed his decision and sat out, a decision Smart announced at last year’s Sugar Bowl arrival press conference.
Georgia’s 2018 sacks leader D’Andre Walker attempted to practice once in New Orleans, but the groin injury he had suffered in the SEC title game against Alabama proved too much to overcome. Walker didn’t play in the bowl game and ultimately underwent surgery.
Middle linebacker Monty Rice was listed as a participant in last year’s Sugar Bowl, but his appearance in the game was very brief and insignificant. Rice suffered a foot injury in Nov. 17 pregame warmups and missed the preceding three games.
Rice said on Friday that he expected young players like Kenny McIntosh and Zamir White to step up and take advantage of some opportunities.
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