The Georgia Bulldogs enter Saturday’s game against Florida pretty banged up. The Bulldogs saw a rash of injuries on the defensive side of the ball against Kentucky and entered the game with the likes of George Pickens and Kenny McIntosh already banged up.
Add in the injuries Richard LeCounte suffered in his traffic accident on Saturday evening, and the Bulldogs enter their biggest game of the season with a number of questions about who fills in for these players.
But as LeCounte said on Saturday after beating Kentucky, the Bulldogs have to have the next man step up.
“Sorry to say it, but it really is the next man up in this profession,” LeCounte said. “We have guys that came here to do these things. A couple guys got dinged up and we’re ready to come back next week and fix what we need to fix.
“We have a lot of guys waiting to get the chance to show what they are able to do, and I”m excited for those guys and I pray for a speedy recovery for the guys that got hurt.”
So who might some of those guys be? Georgia has recruited better than almost anyone in recent seasons and they have players who can fill in. Many were highly recruited players as well and some have already played key roles this season. Below we look at who the next men up are for the Georgia Bulldogs.
Running back Kenny McIntosh: Next men up, Zamir White and Kendall Milton
McIntosh did not travel to Kentucky after picking up a knee injury against Alabama. Georgia coach Kirby Smart said that he expects the running back to be fine.
Against the Wildcats, we saw White and Milton pick up more carries. White had a career-high 26 carries while posting a career-best 136 rushing yards. Milton had eight carries for 31 yards.
Georgia also has James Cook, though his skill set is different from that of McIntosh. Cook has been Georgia’s leading receiver in terms of yards in each of the past two games.
“It’s just all about winning,” Cook said. “I know if I can beat the man across from me, I’ll have all the confidence in the world. I know I’m athletic and I have versatility, so I can beat him.”
Wide receiver Georgia Pickens: Next men up, Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint
Smart provided greater detail on Pickens’ status on Wednesday, chalking it up to pain tolerance.
Without Pickens for the Kentucky game, Georgia turned Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint. The freshman wide receiver did not have catch in the game and there was what seemed to be a bit of miscommunication leading to a Stetson Bennett interception.
With the youth being what it is at wide receiver, Smart stressed the importance of having Pickens on Saturday against the Gators. He is the second-leading receiver for the team this year.
“We need him to be at his best for us to be where we need to be offensively,” Smart said.
Offensive lineman Ben Cleveland: Next man up, Warren Ericson
Cleveland did not play in the second half of the Kentucky game due to a lower-body injury. He is expected to be good to go against Florida, with Smart saying he’ll be fine.
In the event that Cleveland is not healthy or banged up again, Georgia will turn to Ericson. The redshirt sophomore has the ability to play either guard or center but Georgia played him at guard against the Wildcats.
“You got to have that stay ready mentality,” Ericson said. “That’s just my role this year and that’s something I’ve taken personally and will do my absolute best with. When it’s my opportunity to go in the game, I’m not going to let my brothers s down when I come so that’s just my thing.”
Defensive lineman Jordan Davis: Next men up, Devonte Wyatt, Jalen Carter
Smart has remained more hopeful than perhaps initially indicated. Davis left in the first half of the Kentucky game with an elbow injury. He was seen in the second half wearing a sling on his right arm.
“Jordan is still day to day, we’re hopeful he’l be able to go,” Smart said on the SEC Coaches Teleconference on Wednesday. “Obviously (Tuesday) we didn’t practice, so there’s not a lot there, but we’re trying to get him back even if it’s just for a role.
“We think he can play a role in the game, so hopefully he’s able to do that.”
Davis is perhaps the most irreplaceable member of Georgia’s team given the role he plays in the middle of the defensive line and the fact that he doesn’t have a pure replacement. Georgia will ask senior Devonte Wyatt and freshman Jalen Carter to play more against Florida, much like they did against Kentucky.
The Bulldogs likely would’ve turned to Julian Rochester as well, but. he left with a knee injury and he has already been ruled out.
Defensive linemen Julian Rochester: Next men up, Warren Brinson, Nazir Stackhouse
So with a key depth piece out in Rochester, Georgia will look to some of its 2020 signees to play more. That is what the Bulldogs did against Kentucky, with Brinson and Stackhouse seeing more snaps.
Smart spoke about his freshmen defensive linemen after the Kentucky game.
“Naz got to play, who’s been working real hard om scout team,” Smart said. “I’ve got to watch him play. And Warren Brinson played more. So we’ve got to get some help in there. We’ve got some guys back home that we think can help us.”
Linebacker Quay Walker: Next men up, Monty Rice, Nakobe Dean and Channing Tindall
Walker left the game against Kentucky after taking some friendly fire from LeCounte on a hit. He exited the game with a neck injury but Georgia expects him to be good to go on Saturday.
Georgia has options at linebacker as well in the event that Walker is slowed with the likes of Rice, Dean and Tindall as well. Rice has been dealing with a foot injury but when Walker exited the Kentucky game, Rice came in and forced a fumble in the game. He also played through the Alabama game with the injury.
Dean meanwhile continues to make plays and leads the Georgia team in tackles.
“Some guys got to step up,” Dean said of Rice’s message to the younger players. “We got to play different with guys being out and everything. We’re hitting that midpoint of the season where we have to elevate our game.”
Safety Richard LeCounte: Next man up, Christopher Smith
While LeCounte got good news on Wednesday as he left the hospital, he will not be suiting up on Saturday. That is a big loss for the Bulldogs.
Georgia though does have experience this season playing without LeCounte as he was ejected during the second half of the Auburn game due to targeting.
Smith came in for Georgia in that game as he did against Kentucky when Lewis Cine exited with an ankle injury.
“Chris [Smith] has played a lot for us,” Smart said. “Richard came out of the one game for targeting, and then he came in and played for Lewis the other day. We feel like Chris has gotten a lot of experience.
“Chris works really hard in practice and he is ready to play.”
Smith has appeared in every game this season, registering nine tackles and two quarterback hurries.
Safety Lewis Cine: Next men up, Mark Webb, Tyrique Stevenson, Major Burns
Cine’s status is similar to that of Walker, where Georgia expects him to play after not finishing the Kentucky game.
To go along with Cine, Georgia has a number of bodies it can move around in the secondary. It could move Webb or Stevenson over from the Star position to safety.
“Tyrique Stevenson has worked back there, [Latavious] Brini has worked back there,” Smart said. We’ve had Major Burns work back there, so that’s what it looks like at safety.”
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