ATHENS — The Georgia offense could get a pick-me-up against Tennessee with graduate transfer tight end Tre’ McKitty expected to make his debut for the Bulldogs.
Coach Kirby Smart said he’s hopeful the 6-foot-5, 245-pound McKitty will play. McKitty had an arthroscopic procedure performed on his knee after injuring it in the Sept. 5 scrimmage.
“Hopefully Tre’ is going to be able to go, he practiced today and did a good job, we thought he was going to be ready for last week,” Smart said. (We) didn’t want to have to play him unless we had to.”
The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs (2-0) play No. 14 Tennessee (2-0) at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Sanford Stadium. The Vols have won eight straight games, tied for the longest win streak among FBS teams in the nation.
McKitty has drawn great praise as an NFL-type of tight end who can block and create mismatches with his speed an route-running abilities.
Georgia sophomore linebacker Nakobe Dean has taken note of the effect McKitty has on the Bulldogs’ young and inexperienced offense.
“Trey brings that leadership to the team, he’s older, he played college ball for a good little minute,” Dean said. “Having him around, and him knowing how everything goes already, that’s great.”
Freshman Darnell Washington has received a good chunk of playing time in McKitty’s absence.
Washington has flashed play-making ability, as his 26-yard catch against Arkansas was the second-longest of the season for the Georgia offense.
“Darnell has done a good job, he’s been kind of thrown in the fire,” Smart said. “I wish his condition was at a higher level. I wish he could sustain his high speed longer.
“He gets tired pretty quick, but he is physical, not afraid of contact, and he has great hands.
The tight end situation is an important one for Stetson Bennett, who likes to look to slot receivers and tight ends when getting the ball out quickly.
Smart was noticeably mum on the quarterback situation, indicating they’ve all looked “great,” and side-stepping a question about how the reps have been rotated this week.
Smart indicated earlier this week Bennett will get the start, but redshirt sophomore JT Daniels was cleared last week and remains an option along with redshirt freshman D’Wan Mathis and true freshman Carson Beck.
Tailback James Cook is “day-to-day” per Smart after suffering a shoulder injury in the first half of last Saturday’s 27-6 win over Auburn. Smart said following the game Cook could have returned in the second half if necessary, but he was still being closely monitored this week.
“James will be day-to-day, we’re trying to get him back, we think he’s going to be OK to go, we thought he could’ve gone on Saturday night,” Smart said on Monday. “But again, I’ll know a lot more after practice (Monday) because I haven’t seen those guys.”
Smart did not provide an update on Cook on Tuesday.
Senior outside linebacker Jermaine Johnson is probable after not playing against Auburn as a precautionary measure. Smart had said Johnson suffered a mild shoulder injury against Arkansas and would have been available if needed last Saturday.
“He was a little dinged up going into the last game and we were going to use him if we needed to, if we thought we really needed him,” Smart said. “The way the game played out, didn’t necessarily have to. We feel good about him, and he’s working to get healthy.”
Smart said earlier this week that junior offensive lineman Netori Johnson has been focusing on academics.
The Bulldogs are without the services of sophomore receiver Dominick Blaylock (knee) and freshman defensive back Kelee Ringo (labrum).