ATHENS — Deangelo Gibbs will not be with the Georgia football team this spring, but it appears he will be for the 2018 season.
Gibbs, who is not enrolled in classes because of an unspecified medical issue, also has been dealing with a left shoulder injury. Coach Kirby Smart sounded optimistic when asked Tuesday about the sophomore’s status going forward.
“He’s doing very well with rehab. We anticipate a full return in the fall,” Smart said.
Gibbs was contending for a starting spot during the 2017 preseason, ultimately losing out to his cousin, J.R. Reed. For most of the season ,Gibbs ran with the second team at cornerback and nickelback, then late in the season he left the team for what was termed a “medical issue.”
Then it emerged in January that Gibbs was not enrolled in classes for the spring semester.
If available, Gibbs would be a contender again for a starting spot in a secondary that lost three starters. The only returning starters are top cornerback Deandre Baker and Reed, leaving openings at safety, cornerback and nickelback. Richard LeCounte is a favorite to start at safety, while the other two spots are a bit more open.
Meanwhile, inside linebacker Natrez Patrick is with the team and is expected to be a full participant in spring practice.
Patrick missed Georgia’s playoff run because he entered drug treatment as part of an issue arising from a probation violation. That took away someone who had started for the better part of the previous two seasons.
After returning to the team, Patrick re-enrolled in class at UGA this semester, with his lawyer saying his client hoped to return to the field this season. In another good sign, Patrick recently was named one of the team’s student-athletes of the week, an academic recognition.
“He’s done everything we’ve asked, and he’s working hard on and off the field,” Smart said of Patrick. “I’m very pleased with his ability to come back and overcome some hurdles in his life.
Patrick would be a huge lift to a defense that is losing the majority of its starters, including all four linebackers who started in the Rose Bowl and National Championship Game.
When healthy and eligible, Patrick has been one of the team’s steadiest defensive players. He was second on the team in tackles in 2016, trailing only Roquan Smith. Last year Patrick started seven games, missing four regular-season games with a suspension and then both playoff games.