ATHENS — It always could change, but as they enter the last third of the regular season, the Georgia Bulldogs are as healthy as they’ve been all season.
DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle returned to practice on Monday, and while the junior defensive lineman may not be a significant contributor, he signifies the state of the team.
Every projected starter is healthy, with only one set to miss the game at South Carolina this Saturday: inside linebacker Natrez Patrick, who will serve the final game of a four-game suspension for a marijuana arrest.
Rashad Roundtree, a reserve defensive back, remains out with undisclosed injuries, and he doesn’t look to be back anytime soon. He entered the season competing for a second-team spot.
Georgia has had key players miss time this year, including Jacob Eason, the starting quarterback to start the season. But even after Eason returned, he took a back seat to freshman Jake Fromm, who has run away with the job. Defensive lineman Trenton Thompson missed two games with a knee injury but returned for the win against Florida. Hawkins-Muckle has 2 tackles in three games this year, and missed the past two with an undisclosed injury.
Even the tailbacks have escaped the injury bug so far this season, despite playing a position that has been prone to injury in recent years at Georgia. That, and the depth at tailback, allows the team to use fresh legs well into games as opposing defenses are wearing out.
“I think you could ask a lot of teams in the country that question and they’d say it’s a huge benefit,” coach Kirby Smart said on Monday. “We probably take it for granted to be honest with you. We don’t look at it that way until we look at someone we’re playing and they say, ‘Well, we’ve got this back out, this back bruised up, this guy beat up’, and it’s not because of the last game, it’s because of the cumulative effect of the 15-20 carries. We’ve certainly had a lot of carries, just spread amongst a good group of backs.”