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041721 Athens: Georgia tight end Darnell Washington picks up yardage during the G-Day Game at Sanford Stadium on Saturday, April 17, 2021, in Athens. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Georgia football injuries to Darnell Washington, Tykee Smith impact Clemson opener

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Georgia football injuries to Darnell Washington, Tykee Smith impact Clemson opener

It’s never good news when Kirby Smart has to issue an official statement regarding injuries. The last time it happened, Smart announced that George Pickens had torn his ACL.

So when he commented on Wednesday on the status of defensive back Tykee Smith and tight end Darnell Washington, you can tell these injuries weren’t your run-of-the-mill bumps and bruises.

“Darnell Washington and Tykee Smith sustained foot injuries during practice this week,” Smart said. “They are both undergoing treatment and have an excellent prognosis. Their status is day to day.”

Related: Georgia starting lineup hit with rash of injuries, what comes next

Other reports indicate a less rosy picture when it comes to the status of Washington and Smith. Multiple outlets are reporting that both players are unlikely to play in the season-opening game against Clemson.

Senior Latavious Brini had been sharing first-team reps with Smith at the star position. Brini has started for Georgia before, doing so for the Bulldogs in the Peach Bowl. He finished that game with five tackles, a pass breakup and two tackles for loss. It was the most productive game of his Georgia career.

Smith has only been with the team since June while Brini has been with the Bulldogs since signing as a member of the 2017 recruiting class. He also went through spring practice with new defensive backs coach Jahmile Addae, who coached Smith when the two were at West Virginia.

Georgia’s secondary was a position of concern this offseason due to several high-profile departures. The Bulldogs do bring back both safeties but are going to be breaking in new starters at both cornerback positions. Clemson transfer Derion Kendrick is expected to start at one of the spots, but who takes up the other position is still up for grabs between Ameer Speed, Kelee Ringo and Jalen Kimber.

Should Brini be thrust into a key role, he’ll have to do it against a talented — yet unproven — group of Clemson wide receivers. All eyes will be on Justyn Ross as it will be his first game in over a year after missing the 2020 season.

Georgia’s slate after Clemson is not exactly treacherous — home games against UAB and South Carolina and a road game at Vanderbilt — which should mean that Washington and Smith can be eased into the lineup provided they heal but aren’t ready to go against Clemson.

Related: Wide receiver Adonai Mitchell has to go through growing pains but ‘his time is coming soon’

If that is true for Washington, Georgia similarly will turn to a veteran to replace the injured player. Junior John FitzPatrick actually had more catches than Washington did a season ago, but he lacks Washington’s athletic gifts.

At 6-foot-7, FitzPatrick is a capable and willing blocker, which will be important against Clemson’s vaunted front.

There’s also a real sense of trust between FitzPatrick, offensive coordinator Todd Monken and quarterback JT Daniels.

“I wouldn’t say the most versatile but in terms of trust -- is probably the biggest word with him,” Monken said. “With Fitz, you can put him at Y, you can put him at F tight end, you can flex him out. He’s going to be diligent in the way he approaches it and you can count on him. He’s a true Bulldog.”

The potential loss of Smith shouldn’t impact the way the Georgia defense plays. The Bulldogs will still need their defensive line to outplay the Clemson offensive line and it will need its corners to hold up on the outside with Christopher Smith and Lewis Cine patrolling the middle of the field.

It would be the absence of Washington that will have an even greater impact on the way Georgia goes about trying to win this game. Georgia was already banged up at wide receiver prior to the injury to Washington. Kearis Jackson and Jermaine Burton both missed the previous scrimmage but were out at practice this week.

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