Kirby Smart says Georgia doesn’t have a shoe problem

ATHENS — John FitzPatrick, Tate Ratledge, Tykee Smith, Darnell Washington.

What do these Georgia players all have in common?

One, they are all starters for the Bulldogs. Two, they’re all currently out with foot injuries.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart has noticed this trend as well. But he says it doesn’t have anything to do with the Nike Vapor Edge 360 or any of the other cleats the Bulldogs are wearing this season.

“There’s been a big study done … in the offseason,” Smart said Monday. “We had someone come in and tell the guys to wear the right kind of cleats because athletes all want to be fast and shoes have gotten lighter.”

The Vapor Edge, like most top-end cleats, is the “speed” version of the Nike football cleats. The Menace Elite is a larger-version of the speed cleat. The big linemen generally wear what’s called the Savage Pro. Also, most come in high top and low cuts.

Including the extra-wide options, there are at least nine varieties of cleats the Bulldogs wear. They’re all made by Nike, because UGA has an exclusivity deal to wear only that company’s apparel.

Last year, as part of its transition into the new $80 million football facility, UGA purchased a machine that scans the players’ feet and uses an algorithm to determine what type of shoe is the right fit for each player.

“We’re making sure our guys wear the right shoes,” Smart said Monday, “because every company makes a speed cleat and a bigger cleat. But you’ve got to fit in your weight category. They all did that.”

Smart also said all these foot injuries aren’t the same. Ratledge, who the Bulldogs lost on the first offensive series against Clemson, suffered the worst kind. His has the dreaded Lisfranc fracture. It requires surgery to repair and he will be looking at an extensive rehab of at least three to six months.

FitzPatrick’s is a mid-foot sprain. It’s painful and somewhat debilitating but does not require surgery. FitzPatrick has been eased back into action and played sparingly Saturday.

Washington and Smith each suffered metatarsal fractures. Both underwent surgeries to repair the breaks with screws. That generally keeps players sidelined for six weeks.

“Foot injuries are pretty common in football. It happens a lot,” Smart said. “We’ve been dealing with very different injuries, completely different. … They’ve all been under different circumstances. A lot of them have been non-contact, so it isn’t a matter of contact.”

FitzPatrick is already back and Smith and Washington could be within the next couple of weeks. Ratledge, a redshirt freshman and former 5-star prospect who made his first career start at right guard Saturday, is out for the year. The hope is he’ll be ready for off-season workouts next January.

“It is tough,” said junior Warren Ericson, who replaced Ratledge in the Clemson game. “As an offensive line we pride ourselves on being a brotherhood. So, it is tough to see someone go down, especially on an injury like that, just a freak accident. We are going to be there for him, no matter what he needs we will always be there for him.”

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