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Lauren Tolbert / UGA Sports
Georgia middle linebacker Monty Rice checks in as one of the Bulldogs most important players.

Georgia football’s Top 10 most indispensable players during stretch run

ATHENS — Georgia football is in the stretch run aiming for another SEC Championship, but like every other team, the Bulldogs have key players they can’t afford to lose.

So when news broke on Friday of Ohio State defensive end Chase Young being declared ineligible while an investigation takes place into an impermissible loan he secured last year, it was a reminder of how quickly a player can be gone.

RELATED: 7 Georgia players to watch against Missouri

No doubt, Missouri fans are holding their breath for Kelly Bryant’s return after he left the Kentucky game with a hamstring ailment and reported himself “75 percent” earlier in the week.

The No. 6-ranked Bulldogs play the Tigers at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Sanford Stadium.

All of Georgia’s players are currently in good standing, and Kirby Smart has been transparent about the injuries, most notably, Tyson Campbell.

But what if the Bulldogs were to lose someone?

Who would be the player the Bulldogs could least afford to lose at this stage of the season?

Here’s a look at one top six list:

1. Jake Fromm

Fromm isn’t just any quarterback, he’s the franchise, with 36 straight starts and a 37th game he assumed control of in the first quarter as a true freshman. The drop-off from Fromm to inexperienced backup Stetson Bennett would be significant.

2. Andrew Thomas

There’s not a better left tackle in college football at the moment, and that’s part of the reason Fromm has such piece of mind operating in the pocket with Thomas protecting his blind side. It’s also why Thomas was recognized as the Outland Trophy’s player of the month in October and has a shot at winning the award.

3. D’Andre Swift

Georgia has a deep and talented backfield, but there’s not another back in the stable that possesses the rare blend of power, vision, cutting ability and home-run speed like Swift. The junior has shown he can take over games as a rusher or receiver, and he’s put the team on his shoulders.

4. Jordan Davis

The Bulldogs use a deep rotation on the defensive line, but no one plugs the middle like this jovial jumbo sophomore nose tackle. Georgia missed Davis (ankle) against South Carolina, the Gamecocks rushing for 142 yards in his absence in the 20-17 overtime loss on Oct. 12.

5. Lawrence Cager

The graduate transfer from Miami has had an impact on the field that has carried over into the meeting room and throughout the team. But what’s on the field can’t be replicated when one considers Cager had three third-down conversion catches in the first half of the South Carolina game before exiting with injury, and three more third-down conversion catches in the win over Florida.

6. J.R. Reed

Reed may not be having an All-American year by statistical standards (one interception, 36 tackles), but he’s responsible for keeping the secondary in alignment and true to assignment. The senior has four games left in the regular-season to provide more difference-making plays, and based on his past performances, he will do just that.

7. Cade Mays

Has there been another offensive lineman that has played five positions this season? Mays has lined up at left tackle, left guard, right guard, right tackle and tight end. Mays versatility has been invaluable in a season that has seen three offensive line starters miss games on account of injuries.

8. Monty Rice

Rice is Georgia’s team leader in tackles, and he makes the calls alongside Tae Crowder and helps set the tone. Rice has been a game captain on multiple occasions, and Smart is pushing him to continue into even more of a leader and force on the football field.

9. Rodrigo Blankenship

Blankenship has been about as consistent as they come, enough to overshadow his tough misses in overtime against South Carolina and against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game last season. Smart has great confidence in Blankenship, who in addition to his field-goal accuracy, puts kickoffs into the end zone with regularity. Georgia will be hard-pressed to replace this All-American kicker next season.

10. Eric Stokes

Stokes has developed into one of the stickiest cornerbacks in college football, and he’s clearly emerged as Georgia’s shutdown man. Stokes has also proven capable of coming up in run support and laying big hits on opponents.

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