Where Does Georgia Go Now With 3 Potential Starters Out?
Updated: Aug 19, 2021
Athens, GA- The news came down this afternoon that Tight End Darnell Washington and Safety Tykee Smith will both likely miss up to 3-4 weeks with foot injuries. With the uncertainty around Arik Gilbert, that leaves the Dawgs potentially down 3 starters or contributors Heading into the season opener versus Clemson.
So is the Sky Really Falling?
Lets Put this into Perspective... We'll start with Tight End:
Tight End John Fitzpatrick was already going to backup Washington and figured to get some playing time himself. Now Washington is a big target at 6'7 and 265lbs... Well Fitzpatrick is an Oak himself at 6'7 but a little lighter at 250lbs. Another plus, Fitzpatrick has experience in this system. In the Dawgs last game vs Cincinnati. Fitz went for 4 catches and 41 yards. He'll also be beneficial in the Run game where he'll be a good in-line blocker against a tough Clemson defensive line.
Feel better? There's more....
LSU transfer Arik Gilbert is currently out due to personal reasons. With that being said, there's not a timetable for a return for this kind of thing. All you can do is hope for the best that all is taken care of and the kid is alright. At the same time, some close to the program had Gilbert working behind Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint and standout freshman Adonai Mitchell at the "X" Receiver position. So I'm sure he would of seen some time against Clemson (and he still may), he had yet to crack the top spot in the "X" rotation. Kirby and company have recruited very well at the receiver position and there's a lot of talent still left in the cupboard.
Maybe Feeling a little better???
Replacing Tykee Smith is not an easy task. Smith has game experience and the chops (2020 2nd team All-American) to hang with anyone in the nation. But remember Smith is going to have to learn a new system to become the starter here. Coach Kirby Smart told reporters at SEC Media Days that what Smith did at West Virginia is very different than what UGA does in coverage. Projected backup Latavious Brini got some valuable snaps at safety a year ago, so seeing a huge drop off in game one might not be as easy to diagnose.
Playing a top 5 opponent in the opening game you want to be all hands on deck. UGA is not currently playing with a full squad. But as you've read above, A lot of credit needs to be handed to Kirby Smart and the staff's recruiting efforts for days like this. This team is loaded with talent and can bridge the gap until everyone is back healthy!