ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart provided an update on the availably for several key Bulldogs players this week.
Georgia plays Clemson at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. It’s fair to say the Bulldogs will not be at full strength, likely missing at least four projected starters and future NFL players on their roster.
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The biggest news was that second-year offensive coordinator Todd Monken will have a big hunk of his playbook available with junior John FitzPatrick saying he’s going to play against the Tigers.
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FitzPatrick’s value is extremely underrated, if for no other reason that many don’t appreciate how difficult of a job conventional tight ends have. Not only must a conventional tight end be able to block defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs in space, but they must also have the athleticism to get open running routes and make catches in traffic.
Of course, many continue to ask about LSU transfer Arik Gilbert, who has not been with the team since early in fall camp when he was allowed time away to deal with what Coach Kirby Smart referred to as a “personal issue.”
Smart addressed Gilbert’s status on Monday.
“Arik is not currently with us,” Smart said. “Still, we are praying for him each and every day that he can come back healthy.”
Smart said Darnell Washington and Tykee Smith are on the road to recovery.
“Each one of them are doing great,” Smart said. “They are moving around now, and we’re hopeful both of those guys will be healthy soon.”
Here’s a look at the updated availability report, with what each player means for the Clemson game:
WR Kearis Jackson, probable
• The most experienced returning receiver, Jackson is reliable coming of the slot. Ability after the catch in question after returning from arthroscopic knee surgery wearing a brace.
WR Arian Smith, probable
• Smith is arguably the fastest man in college football, but he missed part of offseason workouts to run track, and he’s had an ankle injury he played through in fall camp.
CB Jalen Kimber, probable
• Kimber is a strong cover man and capable open-field tackler. Missed a scrimmage with an injury, which could give way to Kelee Ringo or Ameer Speed to start opposite of Derion Kendrick.
OC/OG Warren Ericson, questionable
• It’s hard to imagine Ericson snapping with a cast on his hand, but Smart said he’s back practicing. The guess here is he’s been practicing at guard, and could see action in rotation.
DB Tykee Smith, doubtful
• Big loss for Georgia at the star position if Smith can’t go. Mark Webb left for NFL and Major Burns (LSU) and Tyrique Stevenson (Miami) transferred out. Latavious Brini and Dan Jackson look like the next men up.
TE Darnell Washington, doubtful
• Dominant during the offseason, Washington is a big Red Zone target who is missed. Washington, at 6-7, 278 pounds, is an athletic freak who can change games. Clemson dodged a bullet if he’s out as expected.
WR Dominick Blaylock, doubtful
• Torn ACL last August, Georgia will be careful not to rush Blaylock back. Smart said he was running straight-line drills at last report. Did not appear in either scrimmage.
WR George Pickens, out
• Torn ACL last March, not expected back until late October, at the very earliest. There’s still a chance Pickens has played his last game with the Bulldogs.