No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs dealing with injuries, absences

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

ATHENS – Georgia is hopeful to get two starters back for Saturday’s game against Kent State.

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Meanwhile, a starter for last year’s playoff run to the national championship is no longer with the team.

Coach Kirby Smart revealed Monday that Jalen Carter, a preseason All-American defensive tackle, has been dealing with a sprained ankle since the Sept. 3 season opener against Oregon. The injury worsened in recent weeks and Carter did not start in the Bulldogs’ 48-7 win over South Carolina this past Saturday.

“Jalen’s trying to get well, going to try to get him healthy,” Smart said. “Hopefully he’ll be full go this week. He was close last week, but he didn’t end up having to play a lot of snaps.”

Carter played sparingly in the first half against the Gamecocks and finished with two tackles. He has only 4 tackles, a pass deflection and 6 quarterback pressures so far this season.

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Starting split end A.D. Mitchell also could be back on the field. A star in Georgia’s championship-clinching win over Alabama last January, Mitchell did not make the trip to South Carolina due to an ankle sprain suffered in the first quarter against Samford Sept. 10.

“We’re hopeful to get him back,” Smart said. “But, again, it’s one of those deals where last week we thought we were going to get him back. Hopefully we’ll get him back this week.”

Mitchell has five catches for 69 yards and a touchdown in two games this season.

William Poole, who started at the star position in Georgia’s last three games of the season last year, is no longer with the team. The sixth-year senior played sparingly as a backup in the opener against Oregon but has not played since and didn’t make the trip to South Carolina last week.

“William Poole is not going to be with us for the remainder of the season,” Smart said. “He’s dealing with a personal matter and he’s going to focus on that and his health and well being, so he will not be with us for the rest of the year.”

Javon Bullard started the first three games at star, a fifth-defensive-back position also known as “nickelback.” Junior Tykee Smith is also playing there, as well as freshman Darris Smith.

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Poole had 14 tackles and 4 pass breakups last year – including 4 stops in the national championship game. A graduate of Atlanta’s Hapeville Charter School, Poole leaves the Bulldogs having played in 34 games with 27 tackles.

“It’s definitely going to hurt us,” said fifth-year senior safety Christopher Smith, who also attended Hapeville and is a close friend of Poole. “Like I said, that’s a question for Coach Smart. We’re just going to continue to move forward as a team and plug-and-play as best we can.”

Smart didn’t shed much like on the status of tight end Arik Gilbert. The 6-5, 255-pounder from Marietta played in the first two games and did not record a catch.

Gilbert did not travel with the Bulldogs to South Carolina. He, too, is dealing with “personal issues.”

“He’s going to be day-to-day throughout the week,” Smart said, without elaboration.