Georgia football-injury report-Florida-jalen carter
Georgia Bulldogs defensive lineman Jalen Carter walks off of the field after getting injured during the second quarter against the Missouri Tigers in a NCAA Football game at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium, Saturday, October 1, 2022, in Columbia, Mo. Carter left the game and did not return following this injury. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

3 things: Georgia re-creating identity with Jalen Carter out, offensive efficiency sputtering

Georgia is off to a 5-0 start and ranked No. 2 in the nation, but these Bulldogs are not exactly what we expected them to be.

The defensive line has taken a major hit with preseason All-American and projected Top 10 NFL draft pick Jalen Carter out indefinitely after suffering an MCL (knee) injury in the 26-22 win at Missouri.

Carter had been limited since the opening win over Oregon, playing with foot and ankle injuries that slowed him and was hurt six plays into the action.

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“Jalen will be a week or two, it’s an MCL like expected,” Smart said of Carter, who played only 6 snaps Saturday. “We don’t know how long it will be, but it doesn’t look good for this week.”

Smart said Saturday Warren Brinson (16 snaps) suffered a groin injury, so Nazir Stackhouse (37 snaps), Zion Logue (32 snaps) and Bear Alexander (12 snaps) shouldered more of the load.

The Bulldogs play host to Auburn at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Sanford Stadium, and Smart is hoping other key players will be able to suit up.

Georgia will look up shore up its run defense, which has slipped to 12th in the nation despite a soft front-end schedule after being ranked second last season and leading the country the two seasons before that.

Offensively, the Bulldogs are coming off a game that saw them go 4-of-13 on third-down conversions and turn the ball over multiple times for the second consecutive outing.

Georgia could certainly use an influx of returning playmakers right about now.

Georgia brought Arik Gilbert to the Missouri game to go to team meetings and go through walkthroughs — to keep him “connected” — with hopes they might get some production from the LSU transfer.

Gilbert, like Carter, has first-round NFL draft talent capable of impacting the team.

Personal issues, however, have kept Gilbert very limited, and he doesn’t have a catch this season.

Injuries to receivers A.D. Mitchell (ankle) and Ladd McConkey (foot) have limited Georgia from a playmaking standpoint on the perimeter and led to a drop-off in the passing game.

Smart isn’t panicking, so much as he’s focused on how Georgia can overcome the key player absences and issues in the run and pass games.

Here are three key takeaways from Smart on Georgia moving forward:

Offensive line clarity

The O-Line did get beat physically on some plays, but Smart made it clear some are oversimplifying by putting all the struggles on the offensive front.

“It’s not totally on the offensive line … it’s not a lack of execution or scheme, it’s physicality and winning up front,” Smart said. (But) sometimes it falls on us as coaches.”

Many of the run calls are made at the line of scrimmage depends on how Stetson Bennett reads the defensive front and adjusts.

“We had big runs in the fourth quarter,” Smart pointed out, “And the offensive line didn’t let them to get the ball back (late) and that was a positive when they had every guy in the box.”

Pass game

Smart said Bennett missed some throws, but he also wants to see more from receivers stepping up.

“They (receivers) are all different … we have to have some depth at that position and have some guys make some plays at the position,” Smart said.

Missouri played a great deal of man-to-man coverage without much safety help, challenging Bennett and the UGA receivers to beat them downfield.

“If was a different kind of game, a lot of opportunities for one on ones, and you have to win some of those opportunities,” Smart said. “It puts you behind the sticks when you’re not running the ball well; it puts you third-and-longs.”

UGA had done a good job avoiding those obvious pass situations earlier in the season.

Defining identity

Smart talks about the value of overcoming adversity and Missouri certainly served it up Saturday night.

“It was a great opportunity to find out what we’re about,” Smart said. “I don’t know if you can face any greater adversity than being down in the fourth quarter by 10 points.

“(It was) the first real road environment, because South Carolina played out so differently, up 14-0, 21-0 quick and the crowd never got into the game.”

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