Georgia’s Kirby Smart: ‘Wow, we have a really young group’

Credit: Tony Walsh

Credit: Tony Walsh

ATHENS — A year and a few days after Georgia’s spring practice was canceled due to the oncoming pandemic in 2020, the Bulldogs are finally ready and able to take the field again. The first of the 15 NCAA-allowed practices get under way Tuesday at 3 p.m. The 15th will be the G-Day intrasquad game on April 17 at Sanford Stadium.

Thanks to continuing construction on the new football operations facility at the Butts-Mehre complex, the Bulldogs will have to get their work done this spring on just two fields, one inside the Payne Indoor Athletic Center and the one field left from old original space known as Woodruff Practice Fields.

In that regard, it may be somewhat good news that every UGA-matriculating player will not be available for these workouts. In fact, the Bulldogs have more than their share of players in varying states of recovery and rehab.

That’s going to be felt in some areas more than others — receiver and linebacker, in particular.

Dominick Blaylock and Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint, two receivers who expected to be a big part of Georgia’s rotation next fall, aren’t quite going to be up to speed yet after surgeries last fall. Last September, Blaylock tore the ACL in the same knee that knocked him out of the 2019 SEC Championship game against LSU. Rosemy-Jacksaint suffered a lower-leg fracture in the Florida game last November.

“Both of those guys are able to run straight-line and are beginning to increase their workload,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said two weeks ago. “They have to work separate. But they are increasing speeds and they’re right on schedule for where they need to be.”

Also recovering from a knee injury is defensive tackle Julian Rochester, who is attempting to make a return for a sixth season. He obviously won’t practice this spring.

Shoulder injuries make up the longest list of ailments on Ron Courson’s rehab list. Inside linebacker, perhaps not surprisingly, was hit particularly hard. Junior Nakobe Dean and redshirt sophomore Trezman Marshall are both recovering from offseason labrum procedures. But also recovering from shoulder surgeries are redshirt sophomore tight end Ryland Goede, redshirt freshman cornerback Kelee Ringo and true freshman offensive lineman Micah Morris.

Also affecting depth at linebacker is the anticipated absence of heralded signee Xavian Sorey. The 5-star prospect out of Florida’s IMG Academy had foot surgery in late January and is not expected to get much team work.

Always important to development, Smart figured this year’s spring practice is even moreso. His sixth Georgia team is a particularly young one, including a record number of early-enrolling freshmen -- 16. Numerous other players have never had the benefit of spring work. Lest we forget, juniors like star wideout George Pickens that didn’t enter school as early enrollees have never been through a spring football practice.

“We had a team run recently and I asked everybody who hadn’t been through a spring practice at Georgia to stand up,” Smart said. “I’ll venture to say that it was 65 to 75 percent of the team. That’s a scary thing. You say, ‘what does that matter?’ Well, it just shows you the youth you have and the lack of practices and experience your team has. I mean, 16 mid-years, a lot of new walkons, nobody that was here last year that has gone through that. It kind of combines to make you say, ‘wow, we’ve got a really young group.’”