What’s next for Georgia with WR Lawrence Cager injured
ATHENS — Georgia’s journey to the SEC Championship Game has been filled with obstacles, and the Bulldogs hit another significant bump in the road on Wednesday with the ankle injury to receiver Lawrence Cager.
The initial prognosis on Cager late Wednesday was not good. A source told DawgNation it was a serious injury that is expected to force Cager to miss the next two games at a minimum, and possibly the remainder of the season.
The 6-foot-5, 220-pound graduate transfer from Miami had become Jake Fromm’s most reliable target this season. This, even after Cager suffered a separated shoulder that forced him to miss the second halves of the South Carolina, Missouri and Auburn games, as well as complete contests with Kentucky and Texas A&M.
So what next? The clock is running with the SEC Championship Game against LSU on Dec. 7 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium fast approaching.
The most likely scenario would be for offensive coordinator James Coley to find a way to utilize James Cook, a player Coach Kirby Smart talked up in spring drills, and current players continue to rave about.
Coley said last August he would build the offense and scheme around the talent, and that has been true for the most part.
Cook’s use, however, has been limited to running jet sweeps and catching flares out of the backfield, hardly imaginative, and limited in its effectiveness.
It’s hard to know if Cook has a practice issue, or if Fromm simply doesn’t look for him, but the sophomore from South Florida is clearly and curiously the most underutilized offensive skill position player on the team.
Cook has just 13 catches for 87 yards and 19 carries for 123 yards.
Meanwhile, freshmen George Pickens and Dominick Blaylock step to the front of the receivers’ room as the most reliable options.
Pickens is second to Cager on the team with 32 catches for 457 yards, and he has a team-high 5 touchdown receptions.
Blaylock has 270 yards receiving, trailing only Cager and Pickens, and he has produced two TD catches of over 50 yards.
Neither Pickens nor Blaylock went through spring drills, so the fact UGA needs to rely on them is eye opening.
Junior receiver Demetris Robertson appears to have overcome the hamstring injury he suffered earlier this season.
But Robertson’s lack of size and physicality has limited him in the SEC. And, against Texas A&M , Robertson had an “alligator arms” moment where it was clear he did not want to make a catch with an oncoming defender closing in.
Senior Tyler Simmons continues to play in a shoulder brace. Simmons, with 11 catches this season, is still most valuable as a perimeter blocker with his range of motion limited.
Kearis Jackson has been back from the broken hand he suffered in the opener but looks like he’s still trying to find his football rhythm.
Jackson dropped a slant pass that hit him between the numbers against Texas A&M, and he misread the blocking on a sweep that had the potential to go for big yards.
Matt Landers, who had moments in spring drills, was not targeted in the last game.
Tight end usage has been at a minimum, so that’s another potential option with Eli Wolf a converted receiver who has come up big for the Bulldogs this season.
The injury to Cager is somewhat ironic, considering Smart has recently been talking about the inordinate number of injuries at the receiver position.
“There’s been significant injuries to me, when you think about Cager and Simmons and D-Rob, at a position we were light in,” Smart said on Tuesday, asked about the overall lack of significant injuries this season. “They were kind of significant to me.”
Smart also made note of the injuries to Cager and Jackson during his appearance on The Paul Finebaum show on the SEC Network last Friday.
“We’ve got two receivers that have been out of action, in action, out of action,” Smart said. “We’ve had an offensive line that’s been in and out and a little beat up. But we’re trying to put a complete game together.”
Georgia’s next chance to do that is at noon on Saturday against Georgia Tech, and the Bulldogs will have to do it without Cager.