ATHENS – One of the key differences in Georgia’s last game against Alabama and the one Monday night will be the Crimson Tide playing without John Metchie.
A junior flanker, Metchie was lost late in the first half of the SEC Championship game Dec. 4 to a non-contact ACL tear. He was and still is Alabama’s receptions leader with 96 (for 1,142 yards and 8 TDs). Split end Jameson Williams leads the team in receiving yardage (1,507) and touchdowns (15).
In the Tide’s 27-6 win over Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl on Friday, freshman Ja’Corey Brooks emerged as Metchie’s primary replacement and looked good in his debut in that role. The former 5-star prospect had 66 yards on four catches, including a 44-yard touchdown. He has nine catches for 145 yards and two TDs in six games this season.
Brooks is not the only answer. Slade Bolden has been the next man up for Alabama at the flanker position the past two seasons. A junior, Bolden has 35 catches for 364 yards and three touchdowns this season.
Williams actually left the Cotton Bowl game for a short time early in the second half after getting hit hard on a kickoff return. ESPN sideline reporter Laura Rutledge reported that trainers were examining Williams’ shoulder when he went into the medical tent. However, Williams returned and finished the game.
Alabama has more pressing injury concerns at other positions. Reports out of Tuscaloosa this week are that two cornerbacks are at least questionable for the College Football Playoff Championship game. Josh Jobe (turf toe) missed the Cotton Bowl and is listed by some news outlets as doubtful for Monday’s game. Meanwhile, the other corner, Jalyln Armour-Davis, has not been ruled out, but apparently is dealing with a problematic hip issue. He started against Cincinnati, but was in and out of the game.
Heralded freshman Kool-Aid McKinstry started at Jobe’s corner and played well, with five tackles. Junior college transfer Khyree Davis stepped in for Armour-Davis in the Cotton Bowl and had three stops.
On the offensive line, right guard Emil Ekiyor (shoulder) and right tackle Chris Owens (ankle) both left the Cotton Bowl with injuries. Alabama reporters were listing them as questionable for Monday’s game. Freshman guard J.C. Latham and sophomore tackle Amari Kight replaced the starters in Dallas.
Alabama coach Nick Saban hasn’t provided any new information on the Tide’s wounded players.
“We really don’t have a lot of updates,” Saban said before Alabama practiced Monday. “… We’ll kind of see how these guys progress during the week. We’re hopeful that we’ll get some guys back.”
Georgia is relatively healthy. It does not appear that the Bulldogs lost any starters to injury in the Orange Bowl, and several front-line players seemed significantly recovered in that contest.
Left tackle Jamaree Salyer, who missed the last four games of the regular season with a sprained foot, had a phenomenal day against Michigan’s touted defensive ends, Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo. Coming in with 25 sacks between them, neither recorded one as the Wolverines failed to bring down quarterback Stetson Bennett even once.
Meanwhile, senior safety Christopher Smith (knee) said he was much closer to 100% before that game. Smith started and finished with one tackle. Georgia coaches went to sophomore walk-on Dan Jackson most of the game at safety, and Jackson had four tackles in the game.
Georgia and Alabama practiced both Monday and Tuesday. The teams coordinators and selected players will be available for interviews via video conference call Wednesday.
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