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Injuries to test Georgia football recruiting classes early on in 2019 season
After one game, we’re seeing why Kirby Smart goes out and recruits as many elite players as he can.
Prior to Georgia’s second game the season, the Bulldogs have already lost two starters to injury. The first happened in the Vanderbilt game when wide receiver Kearis Jackson suffered a hand injury that will keep him out three to four weeks. The redshirt freshman got the start in Georgia’s first game and also split reps as the team’s punt returner.
Then on Wednesday, offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson went down with an ankle injury, DawgNation has learned. The extent of the injury is not yet known but given Georgia’s next two opponents are Murray State and Arkansas State, it would not be a surprise to see Wilson sit out.
Fortunately for the Bulldogs, they have recruited incredibly well at both positions. And actually all positions.
The Bulldogs have signed back-to-back-to-back top-three recruiting classes. They’ve signed more 5-star prospects than any other school in the country over that span. The guys who will likely replace both Jackson and Wilson will be former 5-star prospects.
At right tackle, it will either be Cade Mays or Jamaree Salyer. Both players were 5-star prospects in the 2018 recruiting cycle. Salyer has spent more time working at right tackle, but he’s recovering from his own injury. Smart noted that Salyer looked much better at practice this week.
With Mays, he’s cross-trained at just about every position on the offensive line.
“I like being that useful, if anything happens, I’m the guy that can be plugged in,” Mays said earlier this offseason. “I think it’s helped me pick my game up and elevated it to a new level.”
For wide receiver, Demetris Robertson is likely to replace Jackson in the starting lineup. The 2016 5-star prospect actually had the most catches in the Vanderbilt win as well as a touchdown catch.
Smart also stated that freshman Dominick Blaylock is expected to take on some of Jackson’s duties. Blaylock isn’t actually a 5-star prospect. He’s just the second-highest ranked wide receiver Georiga has signed in the past decade. He was also the No. 36 overall player in the country for the 2019 recruiting cycle.
Blaylock is also awesome, according to Smart.
“He’s really earned the right to play,” Smart said. “He’s going to be thrust into it now. I thought he had a really good practice today. He caught some balls. He catches contested catches. He finds ways to get open. He’s really smart, he’s tough, he’s physical.”
And even some of Georgia’s back-ups have highly-touted replacements. Freshman Nakobe Dean was expected to be Georgia’s No. 3 linebacker. He wasn’t going to start over Monty Rice or Tae Crowder, but he was slated to play a lot. Still limited by the injury, Quay Walker stepped in for Dean and played well.
Walker was the No. 31 prospect in the country for the 2018 cycle, narrowly missing 5-star status. But the high ranking didn’t mean early playing time, as he spent much of last year playing behind the likes of Rice, Tae Crowder and Natrez Patrick.
With all this depth you do run the risk of deterring players from staying with the program. Justin Fields — a 5-star quarterback in the 2018 signing class — left in part because he didn’t want to wait behind Jake Fromm. And that’s understandable.
But when the likes of Mays, Blaylock and Walker do end up getting in, they do admit that it’s an incredibly satisfying experience.
“Honestly, it felt so good being able to play for the University of Georgia and get out there to do what I was recruited to do,” Walker said. “Coming in, it was frustrating for me because I had to play a role that I wasn’t really used to, but it felt very good to get out there with my brothers and playing for the University of Georgia.”
Georgia is the No. 3 team in the country in part because it can just overwhelm teams with talent. Injuries happen quite often in a game as violent as football. Alabama has already lost linebacker Dylan Moses for the season. Give it a few weeks and Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma are all likely to suffer similar fates.
But what separates Georgia from even the very good programs — like Florida — is that it’s able to say “next man up” and the next guy is just about as good as the first.
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