ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart knew it was coming, the question about Zamir White’s health at his press conference on Friday at the start of the Bulldogs’ fall camp.
“He’s the same as the last time you asked,” said Smart, who said White was on schedule last month.
“He’s doing well, ready to go out there and compete,” Smart said at his Friday media day press conference. “Zamir is clear, so again, we’ll do everything like normal. He’ll be thudded (two-hand touch, not brought to the ground) just like every other back will be thudded, and we’ll progress from there.
“We won’t practice live (full contact tackling) until the first scrimmage.”
The first scrimmage is Aug. 10, and Smart stopped short of saying for certain White would be hit on that day, so it’s hard to say just how cleared he is.
White has suffered ACL tears each of the past two seasons, in his right and left knee
It’s a fluid situation, to be sure, but White has told his teammates he’s ready and remains optimistic.
“I was just talking to him about 20 minutes ago,” said D’Andre Swift, the team’s starter at tailback. “He’s just so happy just to play football again. He’s been out of the game for a minute. He’s kept his head held out, he’s done a great job with that, he’s a real self-motivated young man.
“I asked him, ‘Are you ready?’ He said, ‘Yeah I’m good, I can’t wait, it just feels so good to get back.
The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs have a Heisman Trophy contender starting at tailback in D’Andre Swift.
Brian Herrien, James Cook and incoming freshman Kenny McIntosh provide quality depth, and now White is ready to ease back into the mix.
White is running, cutting, jumping, taking handoffs, catching passes, putting equipment on going through drill work.
White has posted videos of his offseason workouts on social media channels to ensure everyone knows how hard he’s working out, and that his return is imminent.
UGA quarterback Jake Fromm offered some insight into White’s offseason social media blitz.
“He’s put enough pressure on himself,” Fromm said. “We’re going to let Zamir be Zamir,” Fromm said.
Asked again about White, Fromm responded, “Zamir is doing well, he’s being Zamir, and I think he has put a lot of pressure on himself, and there’s a reason for that.”
If White’s intent was to raise expectations thereby putting more pressure on himself to perform, he’s accomplished that mission.
Smart, however, will likely be conservative in when and how much White gets hit.
The head coach’s tunnel vision is focused on a national championship, and the worst-case scenario for the team would be for White to get injured early in camp once again.
Fact is, White has not had football contact in nearly a year, and it’s hard to project how quickly he’ll be back up to football speed in full-contract scrimmages.
Last year’s injury occurred in August when White got locked up covering a punt, battling to earn a spot on special teams.
Smart isn’t going to back off putting his best players on special teams any more than he will leave any other stone unturned in his question to lead Georgia to a national championship.
But when it comes to player injuries, the head coach most often defers to the “schedule,” a process that’s in the hands of the doctors and the respective player’s ability to heal.
From the sounds of things, White is indeed on the verge.
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