For a while, life could not have been any better for Lawrence Cager. A graduate transfer from Miami, he had quickly gone from unknown commodity to the Georgia Bulldogs’ primary wide receiver.
Then the shoulder thing happened.
First injured in the second half of Georgia’s 43-14 win over Tennessee in Knoxville, Cager’s chronically-separated shoulder finally sent him to the sideline in the first half the next Saturday at home against South Carolina. Not coincidentally, the Bulldogs also suffered their only regular-season defeat that day.
And so it went. Cager would come back for a little while, then go out for a little while. Fortunately for Georgia, he managed to last the whole game against Florida on Nov. 2 in Jacksonville. Thanks in large part to his seven catches for 132 yards, the Bulldogs defeated the No. 6 Gators 24-17 and cleared their biggest hurdle to winning a third consecutive SEC Eastern Division championship.
And then he was gone.
Georgia handled Cager very conservatively toward the end of the season with the hopes of being able to unleash him in the SEC Championship game. But then he broke his ankle during a practice the week of the regular-season finale, had surgery that Friday and came to Mercedes-Benz Stadium this past weekend in a cast and riding a knee scooter.
“Yeah, you know, I wish I didn’t get hurt as much as I did,” Cager said. “But the time I was here and played in games, I loved every minute of it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I loved all the fans, the atmosphere, the coaches, the players. This is one heck of a team, a team I’ll remember forever. I just can’t thank God and Coach (Kirby) Smart enough.”
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Cager wasn’t the only receiver befallen by injuries. In the SEC Championship game, 5-star freshman Dominick Blaylock went down with what was determined to be a torn ACL in his knee. In the same contest, redshirt freshman Kearis Jackson twisted an ankle and was unable to return.
Other receivers, including Tommy Bush and Trey Blount, were dogged by injuries during the season and could never work their way into the rotation.
Cager, talking to reporters in the Georgia locker room after the 37-10 loss to LSU, said he had a chance to speak to Blaylock after the extent of his injury was known.
“I know a little something about injuries,” Cager said with a slight grin. “I told him to just keep his head up. If he had any questions, that he could call me.”
As for injuries ravaging that one position for Georgia this season, all Cager could do was shrug.
“It’s something you can’t control,” he said. “Injuries are going to happen in a contact sport. You just hope to stay away from them. Sometimes they stay away from you, sometimes they don’t. But the guys are going to bounce back from this and come back even better. I can’t wait to see these guys come back.”
The Bulldogs won’t have much experience or production returning in the wide receiver room. Obviously, George Pickens is a major piece around which to build. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound freshman led Georgia with 37 catches for 552 yards and seven touchdowns in what amounted to somewhat limited play.
Beyond Pickens, the Bulldogs have known commodities in rising senior Demetris Robertson, who had 30 catches for 333 yards and three touchdowns, rising junior Matt Landers, Blaylock and Jackson. The rest of the returning receivers are unproven.
Cager believes the Bulldogs will be fine.
“The way we work, it doesn’t matter what the outcome of the games are, no matter what happens and what we did before, we’re always going to come back harder and determined. Everybody on the team is that way, but especially the offense. We’re going to put it in the past and move on.”
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