With one more game in the regular season, the Georgia Bulldogs are relatively healthy. The Bulldogs have a few players struggling with injuries, and their head coach provided updates on three of them on Monday.
Kirby Smart spoke about the status of wide receivers AD Mitchell and offensive guard Tate Ratledge Opening in the week before Georgia hosts Georgia Tech on Saturday. Smart said Mitchell’s last week was very similar to the previous ones, as the second wide receiver ran and did some individual drills, but was still unable to do teamwork, such as participating in 11-on-11 situations. Regarding Ratledge, Smart clarified that the lineman was struggling with a shoulder subluxation but could have been available to play.
“He probably could have walked in,” Smart said of Ratledge. “It was one of those things where he checked out before the game last week and [we] didn’t feel comfortable tricking him and wanted to give Devin [Willock] a chance to play.
In addition, Smart told reporters that there is no situation where a full-back is deployed Nolan Smith would return for the Bulldogs after undergoing surgery on November 3 to repair a torn pectoral muscle. Instead, Smart said the focus for Smith is to be back in time to begin training and preparation for combine work this spring.
Smart said last Tuesday he was “hopeful” for Mitchell and STAR Javon Bullard be available this week but offered no further clarification of Mitchell’s status. Bullard eventually started for Georgia against Kentucky, although again Mitchell was out of contention.
Mitchell did not travel to Kentucky last week or to the state of Mississippi the week before to focus fully on his rehab.
Smart told reporters two weeks ago that Mitchell was still not training with the team as he worked on the side to rehabilitate his ankle injury. Mitchell has not played since the Oct. 8 Auburn game.
Mitchell traveled with the team to the Florida game but was undressed and did not play.
Mitchell went through preliminary warm-ups for the Vanderbilt game but didn’t do reps with the wide receivers as the entire team came onto the field. He warmed up against Auburn the week before but only played 4 snaps in the game.
Smart explained after the Auburn win that Mitchell was now dealing with a sprained thumb while working his way back from the ankle injury.
Mitchell has missed eight of Georgia’s last nine games after suffering an ankle injury on September 10 against Samford. Mitchell caught 5 passes for 69 yards and 1 touchdown in the Bulldogs’ season opener before sustaining the injury in the first game from scrimmage at Samford.
Ratledge has developed strongly this season after working his way back from a Lisfranc injury sustained on the first drive of the 2021 Bulldogs season. Ratledge had started at right in each of Georgia’s first 11 games this fall and was part of a Georgia offense that averaged 40.6 points per game during that streak.
Smart credited Willock with playing well against the Wildcats in Ratledge’s place.
“He did a good job. He’s been doing a lot of reps over there on the right during the week,” Smart said. “He shows a lot of confidence, a lot of size. [There’s] Things he can do better, things he can do better in the game and he’s going to keep working on that.”
Smith, meanwhile, tore his chest against Florida and underwent surgery the following Thursday. Smart said this week he’s confident of having Smith back in training the same day of surgery given how much motivation the senior linebacker brings to the team.
Smart told reporters after Georgia’s win over Florida that he thought Smith suffered a severed shoulder but that Smart didn’t know the severity of the injury. Smith left the game in the first half after recording 2 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and 1 quarterback rush and did not return to action.
Smith went into the 2022 season with high expectations based on his experience, playing an integral role on defense in eight games. He recorded 18 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 1 pass break-up and 1 quarterback rush before suffering the injury.